When we first arrived in California we had just been given a piece of advice which has meant more and more to us as time has gone on. Actually to be honest, when we first got the piece of advice, we laughed a little. Like, “They can’t be serious. That’s the best advice they have for us in a time like this?” The advice was to “skip church” and not just to skip, but to do it for “three weeks–in a row. AT LEAST.”
We had just come “out of ministry”. (This is Christianese for “we’re not getting paid by a church anymore”.) What being “in ministry” looked like practically for us was, we were the first people to arrive at church on Sunday morning and the last to leave. Literally. Not much else has changed being “out of ministry”. We still have jobs, but now we show up to one service at starting time and leave afterwards. Because James loved playing music and leading his team, it was pretty hard for us to leave and think about doing anything else besides being in church. And even if it wasn’t what we did for an income, why would we ever skip church? Isn’t it selfish? How will we make friends?
Over the last year, we’ve been learning a lot of things about how to be emotionally healthy. Things like, nurture and compassion, resetting our expectations for ourselves and others. Very important for us, I think, we’ve been learning failure isn’t an option. Not because we don’t want to fail, but because it’s actually IMPOSSIBLE to fail.
When we live our lives trying to avoid failure we miss a whole lot of life. We found ourselves stuck in this horrible place called Should.
|Photo Credit: Creative Commons – Mike Beauregard|
We had become so afraid of missing “God’s perfect plan for our lives.” All the things we loved became things we should do. And then we didn’t really want to do them anymore. Instead of feeling excited for getting to do things we loved, it was more: “Of course I did it, it’s what I should have done.” People don’t appreciate it and it doesn’t feel meaningful.
Just in the same way we want to get “can’t” out of our vocabulary (blog here), we’ve also talked very seriously about kicking should out as well.
Here’s an example. If I tell James:
“Hey, you should play your guitar tonight.”
“Hey, you could play your guitar tonight.”
The last statement seems like an opportunity, right? And the first seems more like, “Are you an idiot, or not?”
When I just change the vocabulary even just for myself, a lot of things change. I should take Penny for a walk, ugh. I could take Penny for a walk. I get to take Penny for a walk and enjoy the day. I’m so excited, I can’t NOT take Penny for a walk!
Our dreams turned into Shoulds. The things we were excited about became the humdrum. When I decided not to worry so much about the things I should do, I started thinking about the things I could do. What I really wanted was to find a quaint coffee shop, sip coffee and write, design blogs, and edit photos for hours. For us, finding meaning has come to mean: if we treat it as a should, it’s NOT our dream.
Some days I say, “I could play some piano, or I could go back to sleep.” Some days I think, “I could go for a hike, or I could take a nap.” There are some things that are good things, even opportunities, but for me, they’ll never be what gets me up early in the morning out of sheer joy.
Church definitely started out as a dream for both of us. Slowly it became a should. As we realized that was true, we took our friend’s advice and skipped church. Then we did it for three weeks in a row. I actually thought something bad might happen to us. I thought we would lose our faith in God. Instead we lost the sense of obligation.
Obligation doesn’t have any power when you’re resting in God’s grace and His love.
When we remember how much God loves us, the coulds start to come back. We could go to church if we wanted. James could play his guitar for fun. I could start writing. We could take Penny for a walk and sit in the shade while she chases lizards. We could enjoy our life. We could find meaning.
|Photo Credit: Creative Commons – Hannah Gilbert|
When the things you could do start getting you out of bed excited, you know you’ve left the land of Should. For us it’s little things like being at the ocean, a cup of coffee (tea for James), getting lost in music and writing, having friends at our house for food. These are the things that get us up and the things that bring us meaning.
Should is obligation. Could is hope.