All those ‘shoulds’!!!

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July 6, 2021

Maria CondemnationConvictionHoly SpiritRomans 8 Church familyIntroversionOne-anotheringshoulds and oughts Leave a comment [Edit]

The mind of the flesh is death, but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace. Romans 8:6 (Berean Study Bible)

I’ve been wrestling with how to distinguish between condemnation from Satan and conviction by the Holy Spirit.  I find myself often thinking, ‘I SHOULD be doing more with people, especially those at church’.  Why am I bothered?  Because when I think about all those people I ‘should’ connect with, I feel depressed.  I just don’t know how to THINK about all these ‘shoulds’. And they continue to hammer me.

I’m an introvert and I’m aging, and I no longer want to gather with people as frequently as I did as when our boys were little. 

Our life is so different from when I was a busy mom, teaching French, serving with Bible Study Fellowship, and teaching adult Sunday School. On top of those commitments, we still enjoyed getting together with church family for mid-week potlucks, weekend retreats, picnics, and even a weekly small group.

Other engagements also dotted our calendars. Mike sang with a professional choral group whose performances I would attend. We occasionally took in other concerts as a family.  Finally, during many years of my dad’s later years, we would spend Sunday evenings enjoying dinner at his place.

But these days, I prefer quiet evenings at home, just with Mike. When he asks “Do we have anything going on this weekend?” and I answer with a cheery NO, I share his delight.

So, why am I telling you all this?  Because I feel ‘wrong’, condemned. Thoughts like: ‘you’re supposed to be ‘one-anothering’ those in your church family’. Multiple ‘shoulds’ assail me. Almost daily.

In my defense, I do connect throughout the week with lots of people, mostly through emails and zoom calls. I also volunteer in two different places.  This fixed amount of extroverting does stimulate me. But my calling, what I DELIGHT in doing, is writing and speaking other languages. They, I absolutely look forward to.

So, how have I handled these voices that steadily announce what I ‘should’ be doing, and how selfish I am?

I’ve been praying, reading scripture, journaling, talking with Mike and my friend Joyce and then writing some more, as I wade toward clarity.

Joyce offered this thought, ‘We should distinguish between what we want to do in our day that pleases us and the activities that have eternal value.’

Do dinner prep and sharing with Mike have eternal value?  Do keeping the house clean and kitchen stocked have eternal value? Do reading and thinking have eternal value?  Do they justify pulling in a bit more?

God has been letting me churn, prayerfully ‘stew’.  But not alone. That other helper, the Spirit of Truth, has been guiding me, too. Mostly through scripture.  For example, this statement of fact penned by Paul brought me relief a few days ago:

There is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1 (NLT)

Satan condemns and the Spirit convicts.

Despite feeling reassured for that particular day, Yet, once again, I fell back into uncertainty when the calendar turned over. 

Then Tuesday morning, I saw something else in Romans 8.  That verse about having the mindset of the Spirit. 

I looked up the Greek in my phone app Blue Letter Bible.  Seeing the grammatical form of ‘of’ excited me.  It’s genitive and it expresses possession!

I scribbled a re-write: …the mind belonging (of) to the Spirit!

I continued, connecting it with the rest of the verse:

Romans 8:6b….the mind belonging to the Spirit is life-giving and peace-filled.

I jotted down two synonyms for life offered by the Blue Letter Bible: vigor, energy, both with a sense of abundance. 

My interpretative conclusion THIS day is:

Since I belong to the Spirit (and soak in God’s word daily), He guides me, he leads me toward what gives life, bringing energy and what keeps me filled with Jesus’ peace.  When I notice an idea that is anti-life, i.e., draining or something that steals my peace and starts me angsting, that is the tip-off to ‘taking THAT thought captive to Christ’ and rejecting it.

Of course, I intend to keep praying and seeking direction in God’s word, as well as asking for wisdom from select mature Christian friends. As I keep Mike in the loop in this process, I am trusting the Lord to corral me if I tend to go off track.

Oh, Father, keep me teachable and don’t withhold your wisdom from me!

Why pray? The power of love, hospitals and gifts.

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1 Peter 4:7-10 (NIV)

The end of all things is near. Therefore be clear minded and self-controlled so that you can pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 

Are you stuck in a trying situation or have a problem for which there seems to be no imaginable solution?  Life is full of problems. No surprise for Jesus promised such tribulation, in case you thought something was amiss and there shouldn’t be all this pain.  (But He also encouraged us to cheer up because of what He would do on our behalf.- see John 16:33)

I like to commit Scripture to memory.  So I’ve been living with the Apostle Peter as I’ve made my way slowly through his first letter to scattered believers.  Memorizing the book, verse by verse, since January 2017, has provided me with rich meditation.

Recently a new insight in the above passage struck me.  ‘The end of all things is near.”  The straightforward plain reading of the text seems to be that Jesus will be back sooner than we think.  However, from our perspective (and if you think about the recipients of the letter 2 millennia earlier) the end is taking A LONG time in arriving!

Last week as I rehearsed what I ‘have’ inside of me from chapter 4, I saw something different in the above verses.  I thought about my friend Pat.  This pen-pal friend is in her late 60s and suffers from late-onset depression.  She was 60 before this darkness descended.  Meds appear to work for a while and then stop and her doctor tries out something else that might provide relief.   My new insight was this: what if God means, ‘the end of this particular trial that dominates her life right now’ is near?

If that’s the case and since God calls us to bear one another’s burdens, what can I, Maria, do to hasten Pat’s imminent relief from this disease?  Peter provides a prescription.  I’m to:

  • Be clear minded, or as another translation renders it sober up, that is ‘get a grip’ about what is important in the eternal scheme of things (and it’s not 75 % of what I churn about!)  Why?  So I can pray.  I’m to pray for my suffering sister.  We Christians are to corral and curate our thought life so we can pray for others.  Why?  Because God uses our prayers to bring an end to our brothers’ and sisters’ pains and trials.
  • Next, I’m to love this friend, that is to do what I can to make her life easier.  God gives us imaginations so we can put ourselves in someone else’s situation and understand what we would like in terms of relief and assistance.  Pat lives in Texas and I live in North Carolina.  So besides praying, I can keep in touch through mail, phone calls and texts.
  • Then what about the hospitality Peter mentions?  I love knowing that reaching out to those in need is also the origin of our centers for medical care – hospitals.  We are to be mini-hospitals to fellow members of God’s family.
  • Finally, we are to know that God specifically wired us and gifted us with the means to serve one another according to needs we find around us.  I have a friend who knits.  She works to hasten the trials of others by praying over shawls that she creates with love and care.  God did not endow me with that beautiful skill.

So you see, dear friends, God involves us in the very shortening of others’ trials.  But we have to get OUT of ourselves.  The call to pray, love, and provide healing service to those in need is a HIGH CALLING!

If you wonder what is the purpose of your life this day, then look no further.  God has equipped you and me to participate in a God-honoring and life-affirming way.  To Him be all the glory and to us be much joy.

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