Think how often you say, “I should read the Bible, I should memorize scripture, I should attend a Bible study, I should lead one.” But how often do we say, “I get to read the Bible, I get to memorize scripture, I get to attend a Bible study, and I get excited in leading others to know Christ?”
Jesus came not as a “kill-joy,” but as a “give-joy.” He came not with a list of “you should” rules but instead with a list of love, hope and promises that we can all receive by entering into a relationship with Him. 2 Corinthians 3:6 (amplified) makes it pretty clear why Jesus came to us as God Himself: “He has qualified us, making us sufficient as ministers of a new covenant of salvation through Christ, not of the letter [of a written code] but of the Spirit; for the letter of the Law kills by revealing sin and demanding obedience, but the Spirit gives life.”
Jesus came to fulfill the law and set us, the captives, free. “Be free,” I say, and let God help you take the “should” out of your life.
Sadly, many Christians are still living with a religious mindset. When Christianity is all about being religious rather than having a relationship with God, we are bound to the slavery of the law. (Christianity without Jesus is just another religion). With a religious outlook, we become focused on what we shouldn’t be doing, what we shouldn’t be thinking, how we don’t measure up, how we should be like someone else or how we should have more of “something” but we’re always falling short.
Many of us, when told, “You shouldn’t do this,” want to do the opposite. “Debbie, have a safe trip,” is such a loving thing to include in your sendoff of someone, but some of my closest friends who know me say instead, “Debbie, drive like hell and use your road rage if you have to.” I always smile and then proceed on my trip taking precautions and counting on God’s protection, too. I mean, haven’t we all said (or at least thought), “That’s sounds like a terrible idea. What time?”
When we start thinking, "I should" is when we can get stuck in being religious. Some religious circles want you to believe that God can only be reached through rule-keeping and good behavior. This “religious spirit” was alive when Jesus walked the earth, but He died so we could have a close personal relationship with Him, not a religion. Today, that same religious spirit still trips people up if they don’t know the truth. And even when we know the truth we get tripped up.
My friend Sharon wrote me a text after I suggested she go to the Psalms for comfort. She was in sitting in the muck and mire in what was a difficult place to be in. “Thank you, dear friend,” she wrote, “for pointing me back to Psalms and boy, did I need Psalm 40:5, 'O Lord my God, you have performed many wonders for us. Your plans for us are too numerous to list. You have no equal. If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds, I would never come to the end of them. You take no delight in sacrifices or offerings.'"
Sharon said, “The ‘martyr’ in me sometimes feels like I need to pay the price for my sin. Especially when I sin against another. I try to be extra nice and serve them in excess to somehow make up for my saltiness. God takes no delight in that! We can't fix our sin. Only Jesus can.”
Remember, the Law was given to show people their need for a savior. Our personal relationship with Christ enables us to walk in freedom and to be loved right where we are at and not how others think we “should” be.
Right now, right here in everyday life in my early fifties, God is very real to me in the “realness” of my brokenness. In my twenties, with my theatre degree, I thought I was on my way to becoming a shining star on stage, but that’s when my greatest problems were me, myself and I. Years later, married, with four sons and taking the time to connect to people in everyday life, I found the way to shine bright was by investing in relationships and being honest with others about who I am and how great He is. A way to peace begins with accepting the truth of myself, the whole truth and not some pretty version of me posted on Instagram.
I want to present to you a real, Everyday Debbie Girl who knows her depravity but also knows the grace of God and that being honest with myself and others is completely freeing. Everyday Matters is the name of the radio feature I write and deliver. I often post the transcripts on Facebook. Recently I posted a “Tuesday Matters” titled, “Everyday personal and real" (printed below). I was quite honestly shocked at the responses I got, saying, “THIS is good,” “I think it’s my favorite Everyday Matters, Debbie,” “Oh, thank you for posting. I feel better about me,” “You too, Debbie? Glad I’m not alone.”
Everyday personal and real
I’ve lost weight and I’m overall toned and fit. I feel healthy, too. I’ve no more debt and even an excess of money (after donating to special relief funds), so I was able to buy some adorable new outfits. My marriage is perfectly perfect, and our four sons know exactly God’s direction for their lives.
Don’t you feel better knowing how great I’m doing? Probably not, so here’s the truth: I can’t fit into my everyday jeans, it’s a hard road getting out of debt, my marriage takes work, and our sons are all in different places making decisions about their future. Now I bet you feel better, because you can probably relate on some level. God’s real and He wants us to keep it real, too.
Pain is personal, and Jesus is personal, so sharing our pain is a way to help others know they’re not alone. When we enter into community, we can find the one who needs to know Jesus personally, too. Ya know, others may fail you, but Jesus never will. It’s a promise from 1 Corinthians 13…everyday.
You "should" know you are dearly loved, right where you’re at and just as you are at this very moment. Yes, God knows the changes you can make and He’ll give what you need to make those changes, because He’s crazy about you. Ask Him. And you want those changes to come from Him and not necessarily from yourself or others because He’s God and He knows best. I want God’s love to define who I am, so they might see He represents me. I hope to always extend grace and empathy toward others and not be known as a giver of “you should” directions.
I love reading about Sister Mary Michael O’Shaughnessy, who had a banner in her room that said, “Today I will not should on myself.” Live with hope and expectation from Philippians 1:6 (NLT), “I am certain that God, who began the good work within me, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”
This column is a regular feature of the Detroit Lakes Tribune's monthly Faith page. Debbie Griffith is a Detroit Lakes-born speaker, radio personality and writer who now resides in International Falls, Minn.