Last week I shared with you “Confessions of a Rookie Farm Wife,” a list of admissions related to how I’m carrying out my role as newbie farm woman extraordinaire. That list was a humorous by-product of a pre-existing list, one which is no laughing matter. I call it “The Farm Wife’s List of Shoulds:”
1. As a farm wife I should cook/bake everything from scratch.
2. As a farm wife I should become a master seamstress.
3. As a farm wife I should have as many children as possible…and homeschool them.
4. As a farm wife I should work hard sun up to sun down, refusing silly distractions such as making myself a cappuccino or chatting with the cows.
This is only a sampling of items on that sobering list, and guess what? I have other roles as well—blogger, administrative assistant, daughter, minister to college students, and friend, to name a few—and each of these roles has its own list of shoulds. I won’t name all of these shoulds for you because this article would reach lengths not even my mom would read. You’ve got your own set of roles, each with its own list of shoulds.
Where do these shoulds come from? Some come from societal expectation, some from individual people, and many from our own selves. No matter the source, these shoulds are based on a faulty assumption that we can do and be everything, and they create an ever-present sense of shame because—newsflash—we cannot do and be everything.
Jesus has a list of shoulds for the farm wife; would you like to hear it?
1. Love God.
2. Love people.
This isn’t an excerpt of His list; it’s complete. Two items. That’s it! And His list is the same for the politician, accountant, pastor, and stay-at-home mom: love God, and love people.
When Jesus walked on earth, He dealt with a group of experts in religious law whose list of shoulds exceeded 600 items—that’s even longer than my list! Do you know what He told them? If they would simply love God and love people, all the other shoulds would take care of themselves. (See Matthew 22:34-40.) The same is true for us. Loving God and loving people are not single-step concrete tasks but rather a framework by which to measure other decisions. If this is sounding complicated, stick with me! I can’t wait for you to see the freedom this brings.
Let’s use a classic farm wife task for a case study: frying chicken. Oooh, I love fried chicken! I could eat some right now, never mind that it’s 9:30am. Is making fried chicken loving? As a devoted consumer of fried chicken and granddaughter of an expert chicken fryer, let me say a resounding yes! I know my family members would agree that the delicious food Grandma served was a tangible expression of her deep love for us. When we show love to other people, we are showing love to God (1 John), so I’d say frying chicken passes the test.
But you know what else is loving? Ordering pizza. Grabbing a couple of two-liters and inviting a few friends over for a movie night. Within the framework of loving God and loving people, there is so much grace. Jesus has given me the freedom to decide if I’d like to fry chicken or order pizza. To become a seamstress or continue to rely on my trusty iron-on patches. To homeschool my children or make an informed decision to send them to a traditional school.
This grace isn’t just for the rookie farm wife; it’s also for you, the nurse, engineer, and teacher. There’s freedom to choose any number of paths as long as you love God and love people. This isn’t easy, but it is simple. And, by the way, it requires a relationship with Jesus to carry out, an ongoing dependence on His strength and guidance. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather rely on Him than try to do everything and be everything.
So do your thing. Release your shoulds. Love God, and love people. Fry chicken. Or order pizza. But if you decide to make fried chicken, call me.
What are your shoulds? How can you walk in the freedom of loving God and loving people today?