Thursday, September 8, 2016

Should I?

In my last post about should, could and would, I told you to replace should with shall, could with can, and would with will. While I think those mostly hold true, I'm struggling with the replacement of should. Shall doesn't quite cut it, but I am lacking a nice "sh"-word. Jamie Martin, over at Simple Homeschool, posted a great article last summer on why we need to stop using the word should. We agree that should often stems from guilt, and that we need to see if those thoughts are legitimate. She suggests when we start saying "I should", it's better to ask "do I want to?".

I know many times when I've struggled through a should, I find that I don't actually want to, but other people seem to think I should, or my comparison problem has led me astray from my genuine desires. So instead of saying should, let's trying replacing it with desire, aspire, or strive.

Asking yourself if you should take action can be a hard question to answer. When guilt shows up and your mind starts reeling, should often comes in and tries to boss you around. It will say you aren't doing enough for your children, or that you are spending too much money on yourself, or tell you what endeavors deserve more of your time. Should will remind you of old hopes and desires, or even tempt you to compare yourself to the images you see of friends or even strangers on Social Media. Asking ourselves if we desire what should is telling us will help lead us down a path of action, rather than leaving us drowning in unsure waters.

While there are things we really should do (like feed our children, be kind to others, and to love God first and foremost), feeling guilt over what we should be doing all the time is not the way God changes our hearts. I'm not going to touch on concepts about what we shouldn't do right now, and maybe some other time I'll handle the idea of God's work in bringing us to repentance, but for now I'll stick with how God moves us to following Him intentionally and sifting out His voice from all the others around us. The Holy Spirit often comes at unexpected times, and rather than filling our thoughts with guilt over what we should do, he ignites passion and conviction, shows us what is possible, and makes a path for us.

Do you see should, could, and would in there?

The Holy Spirit Himself pours into us the alternative to these guilt-ridden words.

He gives us these instead: Desire. Can. Will.

These are the three words that help us move away from should, could, and would. We look at if we truly desire what should is telling us, ask if we are able to do what the task entails, and analyze if we are willing to do what it takes. In this way, we use our hearts, our minds, and our strength to walk into freedom from guilt. It is in this same pattern that we serve the Lord. We are told to "love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might". This is Jesus' response to the Sadducees about what the greatest commandment is and I find it interesting that this same way of turning our hearts toward God can also be applied to straightening out a heart and mind swirling with guilt. His methods always lead to clarity and freedom, and I find great comfort in this.

So how do we start?

A good beginning question is always why. Why should I drink less coffee? Why should I spend less money on myself? Why should I invest my time in these specific places? Once you've got some answers there you'll be able to ask yourself if these shoulds are true, if you want to pursue them, and evaluate how important they are to you.

Don't be discouraged if your answers to these questions lead you to some not-so-fun revelations about the gunk in your heart. It's easy to know something is good, but it's another thing to want it for your life. I love coffee. I don't actually want to drink less, but it's possible that I want other things more. This is where we have to turn to the Lord to guide our hearts. When He places a desire within us, we can trust Him to give us the help we need to follow it.

I read this quote from Amy Carmichael the other day and it seemed very fitting for where we will head next...

"It is a safe thing to trust Him to fulfill the desire that He creates."

If you discover this should really is something you want for your life, but still feel incapable or lack the desire to follow through, you can rest in God's ability. You can trust Him to help you decipher this should and give you vision and desire. He will help take you from could and give you a plan for can. He will renew your strength and help make you willing to endure the sacrifice required to pursue that particular desire. He will make your desire big enough to conquer any fear, resistance, or reluctance still lurking in your mind and enable you to follow through on your plans.

All your shoulds cannot be overcome by simple practical solutions or sheer willpower. As a Christian, the best thing you can do is rely on God to produce everything you need to follow the desires He puts in your heart. Allow yourself time to think about this desire, whatever it may be. Don't distrust a desire because you can't see the path yet. And don't follow shoulds blindly because everyone else seems to be doing it. Use your mind to think about the truth behind each should, and bring them before the Lord.

Now that I've got you questioning your shoulds with intentionality, it's time to make you wait another week to find out what to do with could. The best way to fully tackle your shoulds is to take them all the way through these three words. Should I? Could I? Would I? See if you want to, ask if you really can, then dig down deep to find out if you are actually willing to do what it takes. Once you get to the end, you will see progress in your heart, soul, and strength. You will be renewed with vision, empowered with ability, and focused on achieving what you desire with a willing heart.

I love to witness God's freedom in these areas of my life. It's a beautiful thing that He places desires on our hearts and makes our paths straight enough to follow them. Not every desire of our heart is good, but you can trust Him to guide you when you are seeking Him earnestly and diligently. He is loving, and He will not should you to death. After all, His burden is light, and His yolk is easy. So inspect that desire and be ready to more forward.

If you are up for a challenge, write down several shoulds you find yourself saying this week. I'll make my own list too. Go through them in the evening and see where you end up. Like any sort of list, it often feels fabulous to cross items off, and getting rid of all your shoulds will help you rest easier at night. I can't wait to hear how it goes for you!

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