Home Pastors Preaching & Teaching In Preaching, "Should" Can Be a Four-Letter Word

In Preaching, "Should" Can Be a Four-Letter Word

Is it just me?

You should have woken earlier this morning — despite being up all night.

You should have made sure your kids had protein with those pancakes.

You should have gassed up the car last night.

You should have been more patient with your daughter while getting her ready, more grace-filled with your son when you were running late.

Oh, but you shouldn’t be late.

That’s just a small sampling from the first 30 minutes of a Thursday when I had gotten a collective 90 minutes of sleep the night before – thanks to a preschooler adjusting to a big boy bed and an infant who is currently nursing at 2:30, 4:30 and 6:30am. But it’s true of pretty much everyday. Virtually every sentence in my head begins with “should” — and too often ends with feelings of inadequacy, guilt and shame.

The thing that makes those “shoulds” so tricky is that they are often attached to really good things. Things I want do and aspire to be.

But something about that word puts my heart in a vice and — time and time again — I don’t recognize those phrases for what they are: accusations from an enemy bent on stealing my peace, killing my joy and destroying the security I should find in my identity as a daughter of the risen king.

I once heard a woman compare life as a mom to trying to fit 10 pieces of pie on a plate that was designed to hold 6.

Even as someone who is disciplined about not overscheduling the kids; someone who has built in “rest time” in our week, leaving space for organic investment in the people we’re discipling…  I still end my days with to-dos spilling off of today’s list unfinished and weighing down tomorrow before it begins.

Perhaps some of it is being overly ambitious with what a mom with three young kids can accomplish in a day. Perhaps it is overestimating how much energy I will have when we cross that 7:30 finish line and put our monkeys down to bed (I chronically coast into the 8 o’clock hour on fumes). Somehow, despite my best intentions, it just feels like there’s never enough. And from mom-friends I talk to, I think its a malady of the age.

About a week ago I went to The Lord with my schedule for the new year. I told him that it felt a bit like a rubric’s cube — and while I knew what the priorities needed to be (namely consistent time to invest in my physical and spiritual health, time to ensure the kids have rhythms and routines that make them feel secure and time / space to do life-on-life ministry with those He’s called us to) — I didn’t know how to make the pieces fit together. So I laid my pieces on the altar, I admitted my weakness and I asked my Dad for help. For once I put aside the “shoulds” that insisted I “should” be able to figure it out on my own or I “should” be more gifted with scheduling than I am — and I allowed God to show me how He wanted me to order my days. It was amazing.

The next morning I woke up at 4:51am to nurse Sam with LOADS of energy and clarity from The Lord. I had a vision for how it was going to work and proceeded to put together a crazy detailed calendar of how our weeks will play out (factoring for UP-IN-OUT, WORK-PLAY-REST). I ran it by my husband for input and started this week genuinely EXCITED to walk in obedience to the plan we’d been given — and to see what God would do with the rails He had given us to run on.

Then Monday happened and I didn’t get a bike for spin class (you should have anticipated the new year’s crowd and left even earlier). The boys were up all night and I found I couldn’t start my day at 6 when sleep had delivered itself at only 5:49a (you should have powered through).  I didn’t have the energy (in my sleeplessness) to get the house clean for a promised play date (tisk tisk). I forgot to make the casserole the night before women’s ministry and was rushing to do it the morning of (shame!). For all my enthusiasm to begin, I found myself accompanied by a voice that condemned and discouraged me each step of the way.

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Doug is the Director of Communications for 3DM, and organization devoted to building a disciple-making culture in the local church.