The Tyranny of the “Should” (Part 4)

My last post about Two “churchy” words presupposes one important point: do you want to turn to God?  What if you don’t?  What if you think He’s royally angry with you?  I was very thankful that Jesus had saved me, but I had this nagging feeling that he really didn’t want to.

“Look at all that Jesus has done for you.”  I could see God looking at me, slowly shaking His head back and forth, disappointed that I hadn’t done more to pay him back.

I sang the words to the hymn, “Jesus paid it all, all to him I owe,” and I believed it heart and soul.  I owe, I owe, so off to work I go.  If I could just be good enough, somehow achieve perfection on my own, maybe I could pay him back.  If I could just be a “good girl”, maybe I could earn God’s love on my own.

I was absolutely positive that I deserved death and hell, but that by some stroke of luck, I received God’s grace instead.  I had a “get out of hell free” card, I had good “fire insurance”, and the only reason God didn’t incinerate me was because Jesus took my place.

Switchfoot’s album Fading West includes a song called “The World You Want” that hits me on so many levels.  It starts out with these words:

I’m kickin up the pieces
I’m trying out adhesives
I’m trying to fix a place that feels broken

Over the last 20 years, I’ve done countless Bible studies, attended countless conferences and retreats, read countless books, trying to fix the place that feels broken.  It’s kept me going.  I get a little piece of the puzzle and I feel better for a little while.  Like being on a treasure hunt.  But it doesn’t last and I need to find another piece.

I found a BIG piece of the puzzle in 2013.  My next blog post, The Face of Grace, will be about that discovery.  But even that wasn’t enough to keep me above water.  I’ve spent so many years feeling that I owe everyone and that I can never adequately pay anyone back, it all feels hopeless.  It feels like nothing I do makes any difference at all.

The Switchfoot song goes on to say:

Is this the world you want?
You’re making it
Every day you’re alive

You change the world
Every day you’re alive

I don’t like how I’m changing the world.  It’s really icky.  And if I wanted to change it for the good, how can I if I owe everything to everyone and I don’t have the energy to keep it up anymore?  It’s too exhausting and I don’t have it in me to keep fighting the fight.

On September 12, 2014, just ONE day before the “redeemed” weekend, I wrote this in my journal (along with more words from “The World You Want”):

“The Tyranny of the “Should”

I waste so much energy trying to decide what I “should” do. I get all tied up in knots, wondering if I don’t do this, how will it affect that? If I don’t take the air compressor to the store right now and with a good attitude, what bad thing will happen to me today? Will John get stuck at work and not be able to go to the wedding with me? Will tomorrow get completely ruined and he won’t be able to go to the Third Day concert? I better be a good girl, put on a happy face and do what I “should” do.

You start to look like what you believe
What you say is your religion
How you say it’s your religion
Who you love is your religion
How you love is your religion
–Switchfoot’s “The World You Want”

What do I believe? I believe that I better be a good girl and make good decisions, or bad things are going to happen. That’s my religion. What I say and how I say it is my religion. Who I love and how I love is my religion….  If I feel like I owe you something, I don’t know how to function. I don’t know how much is enough. I feel like I owe God. And there is no way I can pay him back. Why would I want others to accept him as their Lord and Savior? Then they’ll owe him too. Why would I do that to other people?”

I finished writing this at 10:49am, just as an email came in from someone I had written to on August 31st, twelve days earlier.  She chose exactly that moment to write back to me.  Or did God choose that exact moment?  It was a beautiful, encouraging email and all I could think was, “How is it that the Lord loves me so that He sends people like this to me?  I don’t deserve that kind of love.”

Click here for Part 5

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