Accepting what is vs what should be is a key to unlocking joy and embracing the present with gratitude. It can also be incredibly hard. I battle exchanging my shoulds for my what-is on a daily basis.
Ps32:3-5 (NIV) “When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night your hand was heavy on me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. 5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.” And you forgave the guilt of my sin. 6 Therefore let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found; surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them.”
A lot of my shoulds derive from my pride, wanting things my way or thinking I know how something should be, not listening, or wanting to have the right answer because I think I should. In a meeting I’m leading if I get too focused on what should be I can easily begin to see the people in the meeting as an obstacle to what needs to get accomplished. Needless to say this only results in frustration on all sides. It stifles compassion and can be rude and merciless to self and others. The should trap can be really destructive, as it can take me down a dark path quickly. It’s the equation that says, “ It should be like this, and if it isn’t, something is wrong.” This is not always true. I am single, if I think I should be married by now, I can spiral into a pint of ice-cream and a pity party really quickly because then the logic follows that if things are not as they should be there is something wrong with me.
James 5:16 (NIV) “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective”
I am learning to enter my life courageously, acknowledging, to God and others, my anger, sadness, joy, tenderness, loneliness – whatever is, not what should be or what I wish were true. Slowing down and recognizing my frustration at work with a less than stellar process helps me to accept what is in the moment rather than hold onto what should be and adjust accordingly. Slowing down and taking inventory of what I feel helps me to accept the feelings I am experiencing in the moment rather than try to project what I think I should or shouldn’t feel, even if I’m embarrassed or ashamed of them. It allows me to be authentic.
This is my new daily practice. Openness is the only door to genuine bonding with God and others. I’m giving my heart and offering my true self – flaws and strengths. Authenticity is the most loving gift I can offer others. It can be terrifying to say, “I feel X” instead of placing ownership of my feelings on someone else. I recently had to do just that, express how someone’s actions made me feel, even though I knew it was not their intention. The right and loving thing was to be honest and hold them accountable through vulnerability instead of anger or blame. It was about accepting and expressing what I felt instead of trying to muscle through and not express anything because of what I thought I should feel (strong, not hurt, nor affected by the other person’s actions).
Ps71:20-21 (NLT) You have allowed me to suffer much hardship, but you will restore me to life again and lift me up from the depths of the earth. 21 You will restore me to even greater honor and comfort me once again.
The enabling force behind my new honesty and acceptance of what is, is God’s unfailing love. He loved me way before I knew how much darkness and self-centeredness is in me and He loves me as much now as He did then. I bring all of me into the light now. God is not a God of should, he is a God of mystery that calls me to live in what is, and what only He knows will be, in His time.
Dt 8:2 “Remember how the Lord your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands.”
Jer 42:3 (NLT) “Pray that the Lord your God will show us what to do and where to go.”
I am learning to increase my comfort with letting things play out when living in the ambiguous. It’s in this place I let go and no longer want to control others or circumstances but can accept them. It’s in this place that I practice more control over my own responses and behavior. I don’t need to get to X place. The meeting doesn’t need to result in a hard “should”. I can accept my feelings for what they are even if I don’t like what I am feeling or think I should feel otherwise. I can embrace and accept what is.
Is 30:15,18 (NLT) “Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength. But you would have none of it…18 So the Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. For the Lord is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for his help.