One of my heroes, Brennan Manning, used to tell a story about a friend of his named Mary. Mary worked out of her home in New Orleans, and in her living room hung a large banner that read, “Today I will not should on myself.” Whenever one of Mary’s friends said something to her like, “Mary, you should get back into teaching,” or, “You should go on vacation,” Mary would respond, “Don’t you should on me. Don’t you dare should on me.”
Should is a powerful word.
At any moment on any given day, there is an endless list of things I should be doing. I should eat right. I should exercise. I should spend time in prayer. I should read my Bible. I should be more productive. I should be more generous. I should be more disciplined. I should read that book. I should pursue that thing I’ve always talked about. I should get together with so and so. I should be a better husband, dad, friend, neighbor, employee, _______.
It can be overwhelming when I stop and consider all of the things I probably should be doing. The list is never ending because should is never satisfied. It always wants more.
If we are not careful, should will rob us of our peace and steal away our joy. I’m afraid this is something I know a thing or two about.
There have been numerous seasons in my life when I failed to see what I was allowing should to do to me. Each time the result was a life in which peace, joy and rest were experienced less and less, while exhaustion, frustration and discouragement became more and more of a daily reality.
I meet a lot of Christians who unintentionally find their way into a similar place. They look tired. Empty. Desperate for what they once knew but somehow lost somewhere along the way.
The good news is there IS a way back, but it’s not through doing more or doing it better.
The only thing I’ve found can break the power of should once and for all is the gospel.
I love Tim Keller’s summary of the gospel. He writes, “The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”
This is the gospel of God’s unrelenting love. This is the gospel of grace.
While there are times when should and grace may try to move us in similar directions, they work in vastly different ways.
Should tears down.
Grace builds up.
Should whispers you will never be good enough.
Grace shouts good enough has nothing to do with it.
Should will try to convince you love has to be earned.
Grace will tell you real love can never be earned.