The Power of “Should”

I can’t explain this growing desire in me to play some sort of role in helping the lives of these orphans in Africa. It’s rare that I’m awake much beyond when my head hits the pillow, but lately I’ve been late to fall asleep and early to rise rolling over in my mind this AIDS crisis and how it’s affecting so many children. I can’t get them off my mind.

Why this need above any other need?  Although hurricane Katrina and the aftermath moved me to pray and even give money, I wasn’t compelled to go and build houses or feed those left without a home. Every night practically in my backyard there are those with barely enough food to get by, sleeping in alcoves and corners of downtown – yet I’m not spending my evenings bringing them food.

I guess it sounds harsh, but come on – the truth is none of us can respond to every need that’s out there; what makes us migrate towards one over the other?

For years I lived under the power of the “should”, doing things primarily because I felt I was supposed to. I claimed and even believed this was driven by God. Caring for the poor was only one of many, many “shoulds” in my life that I carried on my shoulders from the time I woke up until the time I fell asleep. A mental checklist came along with it – my day and even my very existence was defined by how many of the shoulds I followed. Something didn’t feel quite right about this, but I had no reason to stop shoulding on myself and others because it’s the only way I knew motivation. It was the only way I understood God to be.

Then, I buckled. My shoulds came to an end when my bitterness at all the sources of my shoulds (primarily myself) became louder voices than the should. And I just stopped. I couldn’t do it any more. I couldn’t make myself do one more thing I thought I should.

My shoulds left me burnt-out, feeling entitled to what was mine because no more should was going to take that from me, and in many ways faith-less.

This stirring from God, however, is making me want to open my wallet, my home, my time, my energy, my in-the-middle-of-the-night prayers and my heart in response. I can’t shake it and – in all honestly – the thought of playing some sort of miniscule role in the lives of one or two children who might otherwise not have a life of food, shelter, and love brings me deep joy that, to me, is very other. Very not me. Very God.

His voice is louder than the voice of should (which I used to think was His voice, but have so gladly learned it was not) – and, today in my life, much more powerful. And it’s good.