Shedding the Shoulds and Have Tos

Sometimes as a
Christian, I feel like I’m being chased by an unrelenting pack of Shoulds and
Have Tos—both societal and self imposed. They steal my peace. Keep me up at
night. Rob my security and crush my joy.
Anyone else?
Here are some biggies
that have stalked me mercilessly:
1. “Loving
Christians should adopt.”
2. “Good
Christian parents should
3. “If I
really love Jesus and have a heart like His for the poor, I should sell all my belongings and hit
the mission field.”
4. “I have to get it right as a parent during
these formative years, or my kids are destined to become dead beets, and need
therapy for life.”
And how about
these lies we God’s girls feed ourselves?
5. “I have to have a quiet time every day, and
it has to look like this: (fill in
the blank)
6. “I should be involved in multiple
ministries, using all my spiritual gifts, in order to glorify God” [and put on
a good show–let’s call it what it really is].
7. “If I’m
taking good care of my temple, it should
weigh this much: ___________.” Or my personal favorite: “I have to stay a size _____.”
And what wife
and mom isn’t familiar with the chiding Shoulds and Have Tos of domestication?
8. “I have to buy all organic produce,
hormone-free meats, and non-GMO foods, or we’re all going to get cancer.”
9. “ I should create a delicious, homemade meal
for my family each night and I should
keep my house in show home condition.”
10. “Eight hours
be darned–I should get up early and
stay up late, to get it all done and meet everyone’s needs.”
Then there are
the life-sucking relational Shoulds and Have Tos:
11. “If my
husband loves me, he has to (fill
in the blank with various toxic expectations)
12. “I should be married by age 25 and be done
bearing children by 30.” (Yikes—this
one will send any eligible male within a 10-mile radius running!)
13. “My husband has to perform as the spiritual leader
God outlines in His Word, or our family will deteriorate, and I will wither
away as a wife and servant of God.”
14. (I remember
this one well from my dating days:) “He has
call me every single day, and if he doesn’t, it means he doesn’t care
about me.”
15. “My friends should call and text me frequently, and have to remember me on my birthday.”
The list could go
on and on. I have one word: Exhausting.
But let’s pick
ourselves up off the floor long enough to examine this list:
As far as items
1-3, God has said they are quite
simply for some, and not for others. Yet we flirt with, or
swallow whole, the belief that we’re not good Christians if we decide against
one of these radical roads of obedience, instead traveling down a potholed path
of condemnation. (In reality, all obedience to Christ is radical: often
radically different from what we would choose for ourselves, minus the Holy
Spirit’s influence.)
And while we
Christ followers certainly ought to strive
numbers 4-7, the spirit behind them is vastly different than the contorted
versions we slay ourselves with, no?
Numbers 8-16
are joy-suckers, plain and simple, and will ultimately drive us further from
God’s presence, not closer to His heart.
Let’s give
ourselves some credit though: our hearts are in the right place, mostly. As
Christians we want to be wildly sold out to God–whatever that looks like in
our lives. But there’s this (all important) thing we tend to overlook in all
our bull in a lingerie store zeal: God’s best
for US.
By His design, everyone
has a different assignment. Some may look similar, but each has its own nuances,
in God’s vast knowledge and wild creativity. In studying the Parable of the
Sower and the Seed in Luke 8 (a comparison of how seed fares when sown in
different soils) it occurred to me: Shoulds and Have Tos can become thorns in
our good soil: springing up and choking out our God-given purpose—which is meant to look different than person/family
A, B, or C.
We cheat
ourselves out of this Heavenly purpose–the contribution He wills us to make in
this world–when we insist on cramming ourselves into boxes divinely fashioned
for others, like Cinderella’s slipper. Our OWN tailor-made box is where each of
us belongs, and can rightly thrive.
My husband
turns up his nose to such words as Should
and Have To. He’s the antithesis of a
conformer; adamantly refusing to buy ultra-hyped, popular brand names on sheer
principle. Stubborn? Certainly. (The stubborn-est: he’d attest to this.) But he has the right idea, and balances
me out–the part that tends towards people pleasing, blown this way and that by
the winds of trend and obligation. 
A perfectionist
by nature who desires to do IT ALL—and well–I
have to be on guard, keeping my heart’s Shoulds and Have Tos in check. So
as to live abundantly in the exact spot God’s placed me…and steward the time
He’s given me in accordance with His will.
Coming to terms
with our heavenly make-up–the unique ways God wired us to serve Him in this
world, with our skill sets and giftings—is a thing of beauty our enemy despises.
He’d love to see every one of us become ensnared in a mess of Shoulds and Have
Tos, and lose sight of the unique ways God wired us, to do SOMEthing He
ordained for us: NOT EVERYthing, or SOMEONE ELSE’S thing.
I love the
celebratory tone of this passage, which reminds me of the abundance that awaits
us, if only we’ll ditch the manmade boxes and wait on God’s best:
“’For my thoughts are not your
thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways
higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and
bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not
return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose
for which I sent it.
will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands. 
of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
and instead of briars the myrtle will
This will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign,
that will
endure forever.” Isaiah
55:8-13 (NIV)
The Old Testament
is filled with Shoulds and Have Tos. Just try
and sit through a reading of Leviticus and maintain your happy. You’ll need
some fresh air–quickly! Can you imagine
hauling those chains around? Living, as a sinner, with the kind of anxiety that
necessitated a steady supply of sacrificial animals, because stains needed
covering, and blood was requisite? What could be weightier?
There’s no freedom;
no grace to be found in Shoulds and Have Tos; they were old covenant (aka old school). Christ cancelled the need
for these–His grace covers ALL. In the shadow of the Cross, we can live unfettered
by obligation—to pursue our Heavenly purpose and passions in God’s Kingdom. (And
floaty-twirl on sun soaked shores, carefree!)
Come to the River…
“For if the blood
of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean,
sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of
Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God,
cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this
reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the
redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are
called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.” Hebrews 9:13-15

What are some
Shoulds and Have Tos that are weighing you down? Are they from God, or the
world? If the latter, resolve today to shed them, in favor of grace and freedom!

2 thoughts on “Shedding the Shoulds and Have Tos

  1. You shall love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind….and you shall love your neighbor as yourself. God doesn't have a big list so why do we.
    Amy Mc

  2. Leslie, I love this post! It was one of the first posts I read after meeting you last week {we bought your car!} and just reading it again now. Keep up the good work here on your blog, you have a gift for this sort of thing. Ironically, I've often felt with my blog that I SHOULD be writing more spiritual posts such as this, but I just don't have a knack for it like some bloggers do. It can be really hard–especially for mothers–to remember our vocation to be missionaries at home with our children and that whatever we're doing and where ever we are in life, God can make us useful there for His glory.


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