It started for me as soon as we got married – the burden of the shoulds.
My husband worked in youth ministry – the same job he had the entire two years we were dating. His schedule was full but flexible. It was all-youth, all-the-time. He led their Bible studies, visited their school lunches, went to their sporting events and ran their “clubs” at least three nights a week. There were events on the weekends, volunteers to invest in and board meetings to attend. Our life didn’t look like most young people our age but we loved it. We did it together.
Something happened, however, right after we got married. Immediately, I thought our lives should look different.
Now that we were husband and wife, I should be home, taking care of the cooking and cleaning. And he should be home for dinner.
The problem: I couldn’t cook much of anything. (Actually, Erik was the one who usually cooked for us. He was not only better at it, but it was something he enjoyed.) I also didn’t really like to “keep house”. Oh, and his schedule hadn’t changed; he was almost never home for dinner.
At first I let my disappointments go. He must not have gotten the memo. No problem. I could teach him the way of the shoulds. But after a few weeks of me trying hard to be a good wife and him still not getting it (ie: He made no large attempts to get home for dinner), I couldn’t hide my frustrations anymore.
After I did a little huffing and puffing, he asked, “What’s wrong? Am I missing something?”
“Yes. Helllllloooo. We’re married now. So that means I’m supposed to stay home to do all this stupid house stuff. I’m supposed to make you dinner. But I don’t know what I’m doing. I hate cooking. I’d rather just have cereal. And you’re never here to eat what I make anyway!” (It was a bit of a meltdown.)
The shoulds. They can easily become our dictators – our bosses – our masters – if we let them. And I had let them.
I wish I could say that was the last time the shoulds took over my living, but it wasn’t.
With parenting came a whole new list of shoulds. Shoulds that people were passionate about. Shoulds that people drew lines in the sand over. Shoulds that, again, come upon me like a burden. (Things like breast or bottle. Tummy or back. Homemade or from a jar. Vaccines or no vaccines. Stay home or work. Spanking or time-outs. The list could go on and on. And on.)
After that first blow-out, I now filtered my thoughts about these things through my husband. Instead of obeying the loudest should, we made decisions together based on what we wanted for our family. Sometimes we had to ask more questions, do a little research, pray. Other times we made our best guess. Together. We did the best we could.
All these years later and I’m still doing battle with the shoulds. The only difference is I’ve woken up to them now.
They show up in my marriage. In parenting. In my friendships. In my day to day schedule. They resurface in my view of the church. In the spiritual disciplines. In ministry. I don’t always notice them immediately, but eventually I feel the weight of their demands, bossy masters that they are.
I’m also learning that I don’t have to listen anymore. These all-demanding shoulds don’t have to be my guide.
You see – I’ve found the better way. A better Master. A better guide.
His invitation is gentle. He says …
“Come to me.” It’s an invitation to do life together. No more try-hard living. No more best guessing. No more long list of shoulds. I now live, operate, think, move with Jesus. It’s a path of grace – a path of deep breathes and wide open spaces. He doesn’t make life easy – it’s not all birds chirping and white picket fences – but with Jesus, the burden is light.
Actually, it’s the weight of the burden that now serves as a red flag for me.
Like at the start of this year, I was feeling burdened and stressed by coming ministry opportunities. When I took that burden to Jesus, He showed me that I was buying into another should. I was allowing what I should do be my master instead of Him. When I recognized it for what it was and released myself of it, I felt His peace again. He is a faithful guide.
So yeah. The struggle is real.
Cue theme song!
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Does your life ever feel dictated by the shoulds? In what areas to they show up most in your life? What does the burden of the shoulds feel like to you?
How do you do battle against the shoulds?