#28 – False Summits – getting tricked into discontentment

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Climbing towards the peak of a mountain, you cross a high-alpine meadow covered in flowers and thick moss. The trail climbs steeply out of the forest, and you are on an exposed rock face. But it’s fine because you can see the peak above you. All morning you have seen more of the mountain beyond what’s in front of you, but now the summit is in view.

Except that it isn’t.

You get to the top of a rocky knoll and realize that the mountain flattens out, then re-starts its ascent for several hundred meters more into the clouds.

False summits.

Parts of a mountain that look like the top when you’re on the way up, and then crush your hopes and steal away all your contentment.

The thing about false summits is that honestly, we should see them coming. If you had a good map with you when you were hiking, you could easily glance down and realize you are not at the top. If you knew you weren’t at the end, nothing would be tricking you.

Living contentment is not going to happen when we keep getting crushed by the false summits in life.

Sure, on one hand, we have no idea when we’ll die, so we really don’t know ‘the finish.’ However, we are often crushed because we hoped we were at the end of something but had no real reason to assume that were true.

In fact, many times we hope we’re at the end of something hard, even when all data points to the fact that we’re not.

In the trauma counseling that we went through following our attack, our counselor quite often told us that 18 months was the normal time frame for recovery. However, there were numerous times in the middle of it when I thought: “no, actually I’m doing pretty good – I think I’m almost done with this.”

Then I’d slide back, get hit with something different, and have another hill to climb. The false belief that I was almost done just made it harder.

Oftentimes this thought can come from a sneaky form of arrogance: “sure other people take 18 months on average…but I’m different….”

At the very least, we need to read the maps that are given to us. Listen to the advice we get. If someone says “when you get to that meadow, it’s still 2 hours to the top” don’t think to yourself “well, maybe for you…”

There are enough things in this life that steal our contentment, we don’t need to create more ourselves.


DO THIS

What thing are you facing right now that you feel “I should be done with this”?
What advice have you chosen to ignore?
What map have you neglected?
If there’s some hard thing you’re in right now that you really feel should be done – think about why it is you think that.


PRAY THIS

God of patience,
Lord of perfect timing,
You know what I’m facing right now,
And the fact that it’s not over is not a surprise to you.
Give me patience to deal with it,
even when I want it to be done.
Give me peace to rest in you,
when I want to use my own strength to muscle through.
I want to wait for you,
and your perfect timing.
Amen

#27 – Dark Night(s) of the Soul

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When we experience seasons (the more Christian-y way of saying a period of time) where God doesn’t seem close, when we feel lost, it can feel like a Dark Night of the Soul.

St John on the Cross was a 16th-century Spanish monk in the mystic tradition whose poem – Dark Night of the Soul- is the origin of this phrase. He lays out a painful but necessary time of questioning, doubt, confusion.

I remember the day Mother Theresa died, and how in the following weeks and months we learned more about her. Only after her death, when many of her letters were made public did those of us outside her inner circle learn she seemed to have been living a ‘dark night’ for much of her adult life.

These Dark Nights (not to be confused with The Dark Knight of the Batman movie franchise) can be hard to get through.

We want clarity / solutions / direction / progress.
Instead we get confusion / questions / darkness / waiting

We usually pray for solutions to what are the visible problems.

Give us direction in this problem
Take away this sickness
Stop these people from making my life hard
Show me which job to take


In the New Testament, we find what Paul often prays in the midst of problems is that people would become more like Jesus, and reveal him more accurately to others. Not specifically that the problem be taken away.
This is what Jesus prays in the Garden also – take this cup from me – BUT IF NOT – then let your will be done.


We believe that feeling unsettled, having real tension in our soul is the problem – it shows discontentment. Maybe it does – maybe it does not.

We often don’t see pain, suffering, darkness, confusion as a way to get closer to God -but a sign that he is moving away from us.

Those Dark Nights can be times of immense growth if we allow it. Maybe a better prayer is not for God to take away the thing causing us discomfort, but to show us how to become closer to him because of it.


DO THIS

Are you going through something hard right now? Really hard? Have you just made it through something?
Look not at what you’ve suffered, but how you’ve grown. How have you gained an understanding of God, of love, of grace?
In what ways are you closer to God because of what you endured?


PRAY THIS

God,
We often don’t understand what you’re doing,
When really hard times come.
Loss.
Death.
Betrayal.
But you have experienced them all.
When we endure Dark Nights,
Help us to become more aware of you,
Closer to you,
More like you.

Amen.

#26 – Bad Knees or Bad Beliefs?

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I first started running when we lived in the French Alpes. I had crashed my mountain bike, doing several summersaults on/off it, and had to carry my bike back out to find the trail. Apparently, I had popped my shoulder out of joint and then back in as I fell – and I was told to not ride my bike for 8 weeks. So I started running, which up to that point I thought was dumb, and pointless “it’s like walking…only faster?”

As soon as I started I had knee pain. My doctor (who was a sports medicine doc) suggested some knee braces. They helped very little. Sometimes I could barely climb the stairs after running just 5km. I was born with strange cave-in ankles, so for a large part of my life I’ve had special insoles in my shoes to give extra support which I put in some good solid trail running shoes. So even with the orthotic insoles and the doctor-prescribed knee braces it still hurt. Every. Time. To say I was discontented would be an understatement.

I was starting to think that I just couldn’t run- that my body was not built for it. Then I did a bit of reading, and some research, and came to the conclusion that I would try the complete opposite approach. I bought the flattest/thinnest shoes I could get and ditched the insoles, and within days got rid of the knee braces..

My knee pain disappeared. (and I never stopped running, even after my shoulder healed!)

Contentment will remain elusive if we are crippled by things we think are helping us.

My belief that the braces and inserts were helping me – was holding me back and actually causing me pain. What I thought was helping – was actually hurting.

Sometimes the things we think we need are causing problems. The things we think are supportive are actually holding us back, or worse.


DO THIS

What things have you inherited from your upbringing, what habits do you keep from your past, what beliefs are you keeping without reflection?
It’s pretty easy for those of us who were raised in the church to keep things we think help (a certain pastor/leader’s perspective, a style of worship service, an approach to prayer etc etc) but we’ve never really critically reflected on it.
Read books that don’t agree with your perspective. Listen to podcasts/sermons from other backgrounds.
The Body of Christ is immeasurably rich in diversity – step out of your comfort zone. Dare to see if some of the things you believed were helping you understand the Gospel, get closer to God, know Jesus better – actually are.


PRAY THIS

God of all-sufficiency,
you are all we need,
help us to strip away things that hinder.
Show us what we think is bringing us to you,
but is actually standing in the way.
You are always available, fully present,
completely knowable.
Help us return to you,
by the guidance of your Spirit,
and the truth of your Word.
Amen.

#25 – Can I forgive the man who aided my attackers?

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Last year our family suffered a violent armed attack in our house. Armed men entered our house, robbed us, and seemed to be set on killing me.
The attack was possible partially because a man who had worked for us since the week we arrived in the country betrayed us. He schemed with the bandits that he would be in our house and ensure the kitchen door would be unlocked. He feigned to be surprised and scared when they attacked. He picked up kids around our house when they got hurt, he was in our house every day. He and I are the same age, have the same number of kids, and we tried to support him in his quest to support his family.


I forgive him.


I realized I have to.


“Have to forgive” can be a tricky idea.


Do you ‘have to’ because God said you have to -and you feel you need to obey? Or you’re scared what will happen if you don’t? Or you feel pressured/obligated/forced to forgive?


‘Need’ to forgive feels a bit more accurate.


Jesus tells a story about a man who had a debt of ten thousand talents. A ‘talent’ was a currency worth 10,000 denarii. A denarius was what you could earn in a day of labor. So he owed 10,000×10,000 or 100 million days. If you earn $50,000 a year, this debt to you would be ~$52 Million. He had this debt forgiven. Then he turns and vengefully demands repayment from someone who owes him a bit less than $20,000.


What Jean-Paul ‘owes’ me as a ‘payment’ for what he did against me is the $20,000 compared to the $52,000,000+ that I owe for what I’ve done against God. So for me to say I won’t forgive J-P in light of this story is not so much “I have to” but more – “how can I not?”


How can I look at all the wrong I’ve done, built up over 47 years – and then hold this one event against someone in unforgiveness?


The servant with the large debt was forgiven ALL of it, so how then can he not forgive ALL of what is owed him?


So maybe it’s not so much ‘have to’ or even ‘need to’ but ‘get to.’


I get to forgive him because doing so also releases me from bitterness.
I get to because that’s what helps spread mercy, and goodness.
I get to because I realize in comparison to what I’ve been forgiven, it only makes sense.


DO THIS

What grudge are you holding? Who are you withholding forgiveness from? What hurt are you unwilling to move past?

Bring it to mind. Start to think of what you’ve done that’s similar – or maybe the exact same. What have you done to others? Put that hurt in context of how you’ve sinned. How you’ve failed. How you’ve hurt others.

Then revisit WHY you are unwilling to forgive that person.


PRAY THIS

Forgiving, ever merciful God,
You have forgiven me so much,
things I’ve done intentionally,
things I’ve tried to stop doing,
things I’ve not done that I really should have.
You’ve seen it all. You’ve felt it all.
You’ve forgiven it all.
Help me have the same attitude towards those who hurt me.
Amen


#24 – your view may not be the only one

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If you fly low over Burundi you see a network of paths, connecting clusters of houses spread over the hills. You notice the lack of cities and highways, but also this web of red dirt paths cutting through the lush green hills.

Drive a Land Cruiser down one of those paths and you notice how narrow they are as the roof rack starts to pick coffee off the trees, and your mirrors hit branches of banana and sorghum on both sides at the same time. The potholes and bumps are obvious, as is the questionable strength of certain bridges.

On a motorbike along this same path you see the kids run out and stand within centimeters of you. You realize how many people are around.

If you ride a mountain bike you hear so much more, and are more aware of the steep hills as you climb up them, and attempt to keep control on the downhill. The different crops and animals become apparent.

When you run there is a level of approachability between you and the people around you. You notice the mats of beans drying in front of mud huts, and faces of children carrying yellow jerry cans of water.

If you walk the path, kids walk along side you and try to have conversations in rudimentary English. You look up more to see the clouds developing over the hills, and the villages on the hills across the valley.

It is the exact same path – the place is the same. It’s merely your perspective that has brought about such a difference.

Sometimes we lose contentment because we are shocked by others not seeing something the same way we do. Maybe it’s someone at work who has a different idea to solve a problem, maybe it’s your spouse who views your habit as ‘annoying’ and you see it as ‘quirky. Your friend who thinks differently than you about the appropriate government response to COVID, about the role of the church in the public square etc. etc.

Oftentimes none of these perspectives are incorrect, but they are all incomplete. None of us ever fully understands any problem – certainly not any issue with a decent amount of complexity.

We can feel upset, annoyed, disturbed by someone else due to the view they have on a situation. But what if – it’s merely that one of you is running the trail, and the other is in a plane?

If you had the chance, the best way to fully understand would be to experience each of the different ways yourself.

Since that’s not usually possible, you get together and talk with someone who has experienced one of the others. You’ll not only see things you never noticed before, but hopefully develop an appreciation for their perspective.

That understanding may help you find contentment in the disagreements.


DO THIS

The next time someone’s response/opinion/thought on some issue really gets under your skin – pause for a moment.

Try – it can be so hard – but try to see what they see. Where are they coming from? What have they experienced, seen, learned that puts them in that place. Maybe you still feel they have a lack of understanding, but at least make an effort to see that.

If you can start to understand why and how they got to that place – you can more easily have conversations about how both your perspectives may have some merit – and you’ll find yourself benefiting from each other, instead of finding ways to disprove them.


PRAY THIS

Give us humility Lord,
to accept that we don’t see all sides of a story.
Give us acceptance for those we think are wrong.
Give us grace when others treat us poorly for our perspective.
Give us modesty when we share our thoughts.
Remove the stubborn stains of pride, vanity, conceit, and self-satisfaction.
Make us more like your Son.
Amen

#23 – maybe context will help

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I need to start with this:

I often say to people: “you can’t tell yourself you’re not allowed to be sad/disappointed because ‘someone has it worse than you’ – any more than you’re not allowed to be happy because ‘someone has it better than you.’

I really don’t agree with the response “well – it could be worse….” when someone is hurting.

If someone has lost something or someone dear I feel “at least it’s not…” is a completely inappropriate response.

Telling someone it could be worse is NOT a way to help someone through a time of grief, suffering, sadness, or disappointment.

HAVING SAID THAT…

I think sometimes we do neglect to put our discontentment in a wider, or global, or historical context.

This week after working at the malnutrition feeding program, Susan was trying to help a woman at our hospital. She has a child, no husband, and is being discharged. She is being sent home to die because she has advanced breast cancer, and there is nothing our hospital can do for her. She is 25. Susan bought her some painkillers.

This week one of the pillars of our community lost his son. He was only 26. He had finished school, and just completed his first year of University down in the capital. I was the one who broke the news to his best friend. I went up to see the family and ended up walking right behind the father as he followed the body of his first-born son to our morgue. Later as I walked home past the morgue, there were two young men on bicycles, both with wooden coffins of hand-hewn wood just bigger than shoeboxes strapped to the back of their bikes. I assume they were young fathers there to bury their dead infants.

Sometimes finding contentment means putting our own suffering into context.

Being close to those who suffer is not easy. It can cause us all kinds of problems. Our friend & teammate Eric wrote a book about how to come alongside others without becoming crushed ourselves.

It’s not easy, but we need to.

Not just for the sake of others – to help them by at least sharing their pain.

But also for ourselves.

We lose contentment when we think we ought to have it better. When we think we’re being singled out for hardship. When we feel like we’ve been wronged like no other. When we feel like our suffering, our grief, our disappointment, our loss – is somehow unique to us.

It’s not.

We can’t be content if we think we’re somehow being singled out for hurt. We will find contentment when we can be a small part of helping others who are hurting.


DO THIS

Who in your life is hurting … right now? Who do you know has recently experienced loss, or is just in an extended period of disillusion or is struggling? Call them. Now. Text them, send an email. Reach out somehow. Now. Everything else can wait.

This is a gift both to them…and to you.


PRAY THIS

Father of comfort,
Lord of the grieving,
God of the hurting,
Comfort me in my loss – so I can comfort others.
Give me strength in my weakness – so I can support others.
Show me how you are with me in my pain – so I can be with others.

Amen

#22 – You’re a failure.

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I can still remember the day, the afternoon, the moment even, very vividly.

We were living in France, where I was completing my Ph.D. One of the things I realized very early (like day one of each class), was I was behind essentially all my classmates on the actual subject matter of our courses.

A business Ph.D. is intended to create researchers. Professors who will teach others what is known in the discipline, but also (and more importantly according to many including those who ran my program) push the envelope of what is known. Research is the way the theories that are taught to business students come to be.

So it was a time I had a lot of required reading (many days I would have dozens of 40-page dense research articles I was expected to read, analyze, and be able to discuss) and had a lot of stress for feeling like I just couldn’t swing the course work. At one point I remember going to the head of my program and telling him that it seems like I just can’t hack it. I’m not up for the coursework. I had been getting grades that were something like 12/20 and on one exam (I think it was something like multivariate regression analysis – which honestly, I now barely remember what that even is) I had failed. You needed 10/20 to pass, and I got a 9. In all my previous schooling, I had NEVER tried as hard as I was then, and I had never had the sense of ‘I just don’t get it’.

Our kids were not necessarily thriving in French public school, an environment which still uses public shaming as a pedagogical method. Some teachers seemed to assume there was something wrong with our kids for being at the bottom of the class for reading skills (we tended to think it was because we had just thrown them into a school system in a language they didn’t know…but I guess we can agree to disagree on that one). I was driving to get our kids from the village school. The road to the school was a tiny narrow one-lane road lined with plane trees on both sides. It looked like originally was meant to drive up to the door of the church and stop, but it jogged over around the corner of the church (literally, with many scrapes on the centuries-old stone on the corner of the church where people had slightly misread the corner)

I was probably late, and was just managing this chicane in our beat-up used Renault mini-van when a motorbike came around the corner of the church towards me. I slammed on the brakes, as did he, but the lack of four wheels to balance on meant he lost his balance, and slid on the ground, scraping across the pavement and coming to a halt under the front of my car.

Once realizing no one was hurt, I got a little perturbed. What the heck was he doing darting out around the corner, GOING THE WRONG WAY ON A ONE WAY STREET?

He then proceeded to point out a sign, quasi-buried in the hedge on the other side of the barely-big-enough-for-one-car road, indicating to be careful of oncoming traffic. Not only that – his direction had the right away around the turn.

Cue a rather deep searching of soul, ending with essentially a brake-down inside my head.
I couldn’t pass the exam.
I couldn’t understand the concepts.
I couldn’t keep up in class.
I couldn’t provide my kids a good school situation.
Heck – I apparently couldn’t even drive.

So friend…..I’ve been there.

Feeling like you just can’t do what you’re supposed to do. What others think you should be able to. What you think you ought to. What everyone else seems to be able to.

When you get there -I think there’s one way out.

Accept the fact that you don’t perform your way through life.

Realise you don’t achieve your worth.

Be honest about the fact that your ability to get things done is not what will bring you contentment.


DO THIS

What have you failed at recently?
What do you feel you should be able to do – but somehow never got it done – or done enough – or good enough?

How much of your contentment has been lost by that ‘i’m a failure’ feeling?

How much of your value and your worth has been lost?
Sit for a minute to just dwell in the reality that you are not valuable to God because of what you can do. How you can perform. How good you do your tasks.
You are loved, accepted, valued – because God loves, accepts, and values you for who you are.

Nothing more. Nothing less.


PRAY THIS

Lord, you have made me who I am.
You gave me talents and abilities,
and at the same time limitations and weaknesses.
Help me remember you gave me both.
Remind me you love me not in spite of some things.
You just love me.
I don’t have to perform.
I don’t have to earn your love.

Thank you for that.

Amen

#21 -Where are you God?

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Yesterday I sat down to watch the sun rise over the valley in front of our house. Due to this being almost the shortest day of the year here 2°south of the equator – the sun came up just after 06.00 instead of just before 06.00. I had my bible out, and I was praying “God be present with me…”

Then I realised.

He is.

If there’s ever someone who’s absent (mentally, emotionally etc) from these times…it’s me.

God is here. He’s not distracted. He doesn’t’ think of his to-do list. He doesn’t get agitated by the annoying hadada birds and their ridiculous call starting at 05.20 (actually…i’m not so sure on that)

Sometimes I think we (aka “I”) can become discontented because we think we’re alone. Maybe it’s not that drastic or extreme, we don’t think God is gone, or absent…but we forget he’s here.

But he is.

One thing that can get to us is the feeling that God has forgotten about us, or doesn’t’ care enough about us, or is not really with us.

If one party is absent from our times together with God – it’s not him.

The very least we can do, is appreciate that.


DO THIS

Take time to sit and appreciate this fact.

Accept this reality.

Dwell in this Truth.

God is here. With you.

Now.

Wherever you are.

And He always is.

Just sit in that for a while.


PRAY THIS

God,
you are here.
Always with me,
Never to leave or forsake me.
Help me to remember that.
Guide me to also be present with you.
Amen

#20 – Not doing what you “should” Pt. II


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Imagine this situation, which plays out every day on the hills around us.

A young child gathers firewood or fetches water. Getting older they’ll graze the family’s three goats if they’re a boy, or tend to younger siblings if they’re a girl. They help with tilling, planting, harvesting the family field. As they age, they find someone from not too far away to marry. They build a small house of mud bricks and hopefully acquire their own small plot of land to grow food to eat, and maybe some extra to sell. They have children. The cycle repeats.

What does God “want them to do” with their lives?

What are they being “called” to do?

What “should” they do with their lives?

Often the core of our concern for “what should I do” is a sense that we have a very specific and direct calling- usually associated with our work. We approach this concept quite differently than the original Biblical authors.

The prophet Micah said God wanted people to: “Act Justly, love mercy, walk humbly with God” {Micah 6:8}

Isaiah said God wanted his people to: “…break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts…. sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families.” {Is 58:6-7}

When Jesus himself was asked what’s the most important thing I do in my life? He replied: “Love God. Love others.” {Matt 22:37-39}

“Yes fine, but what about ‘my calling’ – the thing/job/role I’m supposed to do? “

We’ve allowed a concept unique to modern, wealthy societies creep into our view of God’s calling when we think this way. In places like rural Burundi, if someone’s father is a sustenance farmer (whose farm is smaller than your garage) they will also certainly be a farmer.

This doesn’t negate that many of these people wish they (or their kids) could be something else. However, it doesn’t change the fact that for most of human history, the idea of choosing our own vocation is unthinkable. If you are a coffee farmer because your father was a coffee farmer, is there any sense in questioning whether God wants you to be a coffee farmer? Maybe you ‘should’ have been a teacher? But if that was never an option, is there any point in agonizing over what never was and never will be?

Why then do those of us with the privilege of exercising so much influence over our ‘work’, feel like we only have one ‘right’ choice to make? We think if we pick the wrong thing, God is not pleased, or at least disappointed.

Let’s start to view our ‘life’s calling’ as being an apprentice of Jesus, first and foremost. Then where we live, what we do for a job, what our home life is like – are all secondary issues. Actually, they are at best a distant second.

If we are called to love others, we can do that in any situation. We can do that as a stay-at-home parent, as an unemployed student, as a music teacher, as an aeronautics engineer, or as a bus driver. If you find yourself any place there are humans around, you have a calling right in front of you. Whether it’s your children, co-workers, neighbors, classmates, that guy who eats lunch at your table, or that woman who sits next to you on the commuter train every day.

Wherever there are people, there are hurts to be shared, stories to be heard. There are ways we can help or at least things we can do to show love.

“A new commandment I give to you: love one another.” -Jesus

That’s Jesus calling for those who want to be his apprentices. And the beauty is that it’s completely independent of any work or life situation.


DO THIS

Reflect on the following verses {taken from The Message version}:

Matthew 22:37-39 “Teacher, which command in God’s Law is the most important?” Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’

1 Timothy 1:5 The whole point of what we’re urging is simply love – love uncontaminated by self-interest and counterfeit faith, a life open to God

Micah 6:8 But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do, what God is looking for in men and women. It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor, be compassionate and loyal in your love, And don’t take yourself too seriously – take God seriously.

What do these say to you about your ‘calling’ – about what you ‘should be doing’? Think about those already present in your life that you can love better. There is no need to go looking for a new/better calling – start with the one you already have.


PRAY THIS

Forgive us Lord for waiting to hear from you, when you have already said so much.
Forgive us for demanding a calling, when you have already made so much clear.
Forgive us Lord for thinking there is a limit on how we can serve you,
when we can follow you wherever we are.
Give us courage to act with justice, hearts to extend mercy, and humility to walk with you.

Amen

#19 Discontentment is not doing what you “should”

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The job I currently have involves spending a lot of my time overseeing the construction at our hospital here in rural Burundi. I spent 12 years in post-secondary education, culminating in a doctorate that specifically trained me to be a research professor of management. So let the record show that I am no stranger to this sense of not ‘doing what I should.’

“You spent all that time in school, why are you not doing what you trained to do?”

I get that a lot. Not always spoken to me, it also comes from voices inside my head, either me playing it back to myself, or me imagining others saying it to me. I know there are people who feel this way, as they have more or less said so. Some make it obvious, others try to couch it diplomatically. But the implication they, and the voices in my head, all have are the same. “You’re wasting your time because you’re not doing what you should be doing.”

And if I’m being completely honest, I can feel that way myself.

Expectations, both our own and others, can be a huge drain on our contentment. Not because they are necessarily bad, but we have problems when we start to live with a lot of ‘shoulds

You should be married by now.

You should send your kids to this kind of school

You should take that job

You should spend more time at home

You should take a holiday with your family

You should stay late today until this is done

You should pray more

You should…

The list can go on forever, but at the heart of it is the sense we ought to be doing something that we’re not.

Often these things people think we should be doing are good, or noble, or helpful. The problem is not that we shouldn’t do them, it’s the sense they ought to take priority over other things, or even everything. The other problem is when the shoulds in our lives are more personal preferences, things that one person deems more valuable/important than another. Is getting married good? Yes, as is remaining single. Are some private schools good? Yes – and so are some public schools.

Many of the things people pressure us to do reflect more about them.

I want grandchildren, so you should have kids.

I put my kids in a private school, so to validate my choice, you should do the same.

I had to claw my way up the corporate ladder, therefore you should also have to sacrifice your time with your family to get where I am.

When we get caught up in trying to fulfill other people’s expectations for our lives, it will rarely end well. Whether it’s our parents, our boss, our neighbor, or anyone. When we try to meet other people’s goals, life gets hard. We will have a hard time finding contentment when we are trying to fulfill someone else’s dream.

What we ‘should’ do is unique to each one of us. It is also unique to times in our lives. Maybe there is something that I should do, that I will eventually do. Maybe it’s something that I should do, and I’ve already done it, and now I’ve moved on to something else.

It’s one thing to believe you’re doing something wrong. But it feels like it’s a much deeper attack on who we are if we start to believe that we’re doing the wrong thing.

If we think we’re meant to be a school teacher, or a marketing manager, or a software developer, or a stay-at-home parent, or a research scientist, or whatever, …but we are not as “good at it” as we want, that is different. With that, we can always say we need to work harder or find smarter, or learn more, or get more experience or something. We’re doing the right thing, we’re just not yet good enough at it.

But if we think we’re doing the wrong thing, even if we’re doing fairly well at it, that is much harder to accept. If I question not if I am a good father, but whether I even wanted kids – that’s much different.

If we start to think there is something we ‘ought’ to be doing but we’re not, that hits our identity. Hard.

What we need to do is step back and consider if all the should’s in our lives are things we honestly think are true. That God would have us believe. That we think are true.

DO THIS

Identify some thing you think you ‘should’ be doing. Maybe more of it, maybe less. Maybe a different job, different stage in life, different whatever.

Spend some time reading through relevant sections of the Bible, praying and journaling.

Try to see if this truly is something God wants for you. Is it merely your own wish? Is it merely pressure from someone else?

It could be all of teh above, but it’s much better to identify now what is really behind that feeling of “you should.”

PRAY THIS

Father of complete acceptance,
God of second chances,
and third,
and more,
You do have desires for us,
ways you want us to live,
But so often we get caught up in pursuing specific paths.
Remind us there are infinite ways to serve you.
there are so many ways to love our neighbor.
Give us peace that we haven’t gone too far in some direction,
Show us that you can use every step we’ve taken.
Help us live not for the approval of others and their expectations,
but for your glory and the good of those around us.

Amen