Friday, January 10, 2014

Getting Rid of The "Shoulds"

            We moved into this house over three years ago.  It was a huge answer to prayer because we had been in a two-bedroom rental for 11 years.  But that two-bedroom rental became a one-bedroom for almost a year because of mold problems.  Four kids and two adults in a “one-bedroom” house for a year.  It was bad.  And there was mold on the main level, too, which caused us to close off the whole back area.  (Yes, it made us sick.  And no, no one else but me could smell it, so every time I called the landlord in to check, they decided that it was nothing.) 
            But having no money, we couldn’t just rush out and pick any place that we liked.  We had to desperately pray, and to rely on and wait for God to open the next door.  We didn’t want another rental, to move our stuff more times than we had to.  It was time to find a house to buy.  So the hunt was on for a place that would fit six people and that we could afford on one small income.

            Finally, through a series of faith-testing, faith-sharpening trials, we found a home that we knew God had brought to us.  It was a huge blessing.  But here we are, three years later, still sitting in a half-done house.  Finding more and more problems that we don’t have the money to fix.
            What are we to think of this?  Didn’t God lead us here, to our first home?  Why does it have to be such a battle just to live here, to make it homey?  Were we wrong?  Was there some sign we missed?  Is this really the blessing that we thought it was? 
            I’ll admit that over these past three years, I have dealt with a lot of different feelings.  I’ve been frustrated that we can’t really invite people over to visit.  (Of course, there are a couple friends who don’t mind the filthy carpet that we can’t replace yet and the torn-apart bathroom that sits there like a giant, gaping black hole or the patches of torn-off ceiling.  But this is not a place to be “proud” of or invite new friends to see.) 
            I have been discouraged, feeling like God let us down.  Like maybe He didn’t want to bless us the way He blesses others, such as those who have enough money to make completely unnecessary improvements to their homes or to go on regular island vacations or buy second and third cars.  Whereas we can’t even afford a dishwasher or new carpet.
            I have been angry when the help that was promised to us to fix this place up didn’t happen.  And so we wait on them still because we can’t afford to pay someone to do it, and we can’t do it ourselves.  But they show no sign of coming any time soon.  I hate being at the mercy of other people, having to rely on them.  But we have no choice.  And so we wait.
            And finally, I’m just plain tired.  Tired of worrying and stressing about it.  Of feeling like we got the short stick.  Of being angry about things we have no control over anyway.  There are so many things in life to be angry about and to worry about that a lot of us could make this our full-time job. 
            And so I decided that I was done . . . I was done thinking that things “should be” different.   Done being upset with the half-done state of the house.  Done lamenting my place in life.  Who am I to think that things “should be” better or different?  That God “should” have done such-and-such in our lives?  That His answers to prayer “should” meet certain conditions?
            “Shoulds” make a lot of problems for us.  Because we are taking our tiny little understanding and formulating an opinion about how God should act and what He should do and what His actions mean.  “Why doesn’t God . . .?”  “What kind of God would . . .?”  “He must not care because He doesn’t . . .?”  “A good God wouldn’t . . .!”
            When we view things through our own “shoulds,” we let our expectations shape our view of who God is and who we are.  And we place ourselves on the throne and make God our errand boy.  We think that we know how this life “should” be.  And we fail to learn to be content with what it is.  We fail to learn who God really is and who we really are.  And we make life and faith and trusting God much harder than it needs to be.  Many times, it’s not our circumstances that are the biggest problems.  It's our expectations.  Our view of our circumstances. 
            I’ve made an effort these past few years to explore my expectations, to see how they get in the way of my life and my faith.  Of learning to be content.  And it’s been eye-opening to see how much heartache and frustration my “shoulds” have caused me.
            When tempted to be upset with life and with God, we need to ask God to examine our hearts and see if there are any “shoulds” that are causing anger or frustration or discouragement.  And we need to loosen our grip on them and lay them down before the Lord, asking for His help to see things His way and to learn to be content.  It's not always easy to "get rid of the shoulds," but it leads to greater spiritual growth and gives God a chance to replace them with something better.  Loosen your grip.  Sometimes, it's the only way!