By: Amy Dalke
I can barely get my car settled between two yellow lines in the church parking lot before Luke tears off in a flash towards the front door. Every. single. time.
And every. single. time, I yell for him to watch for cars and that kind of thing, but it makes no difference because he’s already halfway down the sidewalk.
That never stops me from hollering, “Luke, slow down! Don’t run!” as if it’s one of the Ten Commandments. Because everyone knows “Thou shalt not run in the front yard of the church.”
One day last week as he eagerly sprinted across the pavement, I loudly proclaimed my tired words of warning once again. And when it was clear he didn’t hear (or care?), I wondered why I am so adamant that he should not run to the church.
(Because really, there are worse things.)
Should is an overused word in my personal vernacular. It’s a bad habit that I’m trying to quit, mostly because should often serves as a measuring stick on which my aim for perfection constantly falls short.
I should organize my home and my closet and my calendar because that’s what awesome people do.
I should always be happy, because God works all things out for the good, right?
I should work hard and then harder because that’s what a successful person does.
I should host a carnival instead of a birthday party because good moms who love their children go all out.
I should cut processed foods completely from our diet. (But wait…do donuts count?)
I shouldn’t allow my son to miss Sunday school for a baseball tournament.
I should never complain because…well, I should be thankful and all that.
Should sucks the air right out of me.
Ha. Once, I even marked answers on a personality assessment according to the person I thought I should be. Because, exactly. I want to be someone I’m really not.
And thus, should kept me running from who I am. Because should is the fuel of shame.
Somehow I imagined that Jesus just got me off to a good start, and I needed to work hard to keep myself in tact. Yet every time I stacked all the should’s in even rows within my soul, I had to begin all over again. Because my humanity just kept knocking boxes off the shelf.
All of life became a desperate attempt to patch over the gap between who I was and who I thought I should be with an unraveling ball of yarn. Running from my own one-of-a-kind-ness kept me stressed out and breathless, as I desperately grasped at straws I wasn’t meant to hold.
CAN SOMEBODY PLEASE JUST PRESS STOP?
By the grace of God, I’ve learned that no matter how hard I run, I cannot get away from who I uniquely am. And neither can you. We who claim to be people of grace need to live like it…believing that life is not found in trying to be someone else…or in working hard enough to be good enough.
Because we can’t do that, even though we try.
Instead of living fully into who we are, we try to be someone we are not. Instead of falling on the grace that first brought us to Christ, we try to rack up points for good behavior. We try to remove every last square inch of weakness because we believe holiness can’t bear the weight of our humanity.
But that’s not the Gospel at all!
Our human nature does not shock the One who stamped our souls with his image as he shaped our fleshy feet to walk upon this earth. We are dirt and God knows it. But we are a dirt that’s been made holy by a grace we cannot comprehend.
We cannot outrun our humanity because we wake up to it every morning. But praise God, the dawn of each new day is ripe with fresh mercy that reminds us we can begin again.
The gap between how we live today, and who we are becoming is a holy space of transformation. It’s no longer a threadbare patch job drawn over shame. But it is a place of divine creativity where our souls are shaped by truth.
Jesus fulfilled our list of should’s, and love is the governor of our hearts.
Shame says that you are never enough. But Grace tells a different story.
Who will you listen to today? Will you let should drag you through the mud of guilt? Or will you hear mercy ringing loudly over you with these words:
“My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)