In the recent weeks, there have been things weighing in a little more heavily on my heart. I have felt my spirit yearn for preparation. For what, I still do not know. But I can feel it. Deep within me continues to long for something more. Something my soul was created for. I have been anticipating time to sit down. To type. To get words and thoughts out of my head. To get moving. To start. To do something.
I took a step this week. On Tuesday to be exact. I attended a webinar about how to write a book proposal. A few things really hit home, but one of the things she suggested happened today. She said to start listening for what people around you are saying. Do this through the lens of what you have to say. This morning I met with a girl I mentor, as I do most Saturday mornings. We spend around three hours talking about our weeks and lessons from them. A few things she said seemed to fit right in to what I had been thinking recently. I’ve been thinking a lot more about “shoulds.” Shoulds that come not only from our family or our friends, but shoulds that come from ourselves.
Let me explain what I mean by “shoulds.” When I was in school for counseling, it stuck with me when someone explained a common thing that happens in our lives as “stop shoulding all over me!” Essentially other people’s thoughts of what we should or should not do, get projected onto us and we accept them wholeheartedly. We allow those things to come into our lives and at times, drive our decisions. Some people are more aware of shoulds that they feel from others in their lives, and choose to not let them have an impact. Some people are not as aware. I was very aware of them as I receive them from various people in my life and it has been an uphill battle dealing with them. However, I was not as aware of the shoulds I was putting all over myself.
The past 6-8 months or so have involved me and my husband stepping out a little bit more than we usually would. We reached out to our local church and asked for ways we could help serve. It has been quite a stretch for me at times. In a nutshell – it’s been good. More on that later. Most recently, I went to a women’s retreat hosted by the early service at our church to connect specifically to those ladies at that service. While there was threat of a snow/ice storm/blizzard (#snowzilla2016), I was SO excited at the chance of getting snowed in for the weekend. Aka any excuse to get to stay home. Well, it wasn’t bad enough in our neck of the woods, and I decided to go. I’m glad I did. For the most part, I questioned a lot and it was kind of a struggle. But right at the end, within the last hour or so, the real magic happened. People got real. Insert side eye here.
After a time where we were supposed to be spending quiet time with the Lord, someone stepped out and said that she didn’t hear from God (crickets). She continued by saying that she couldn’t remember the last time she had spent that long (30 minutes) reading her Bible either. You could hear a pin drop. I don’t think that is what the facilitator thought she’d hear after asking a collective “How was your time?” to the group. I have to admit, I was rather stunned when she first heard that. I mean, my time was rough, but I don’t think I would have been so bold or blunt. After the initial shock, the conversation really developed. There were around 19 women in the room, myself included. Another pretty strong opinion entered the dialogue. She spoke about the proverbial “quiet time” that we should all be spending as this “head bowed, hands together, angels singing in the background kind of time.” That has been the expectation of us as Christians for as long as any of us could remember. But why? Who ever said “This is what your quiet time should look like”? I’m sure there’s been a handful of things that have impacted our thoughts and expectations of what that time should look like. But when is the last time we challenged that or even asked the Lord what that should look like in our own lives? I must admit, it had been a pretty long time, if not ever for me. I had fallen victim to the constant shame and guilt that came along with someone shoulding on me, but this time it was me. I had spent months telling myself that things needed to change, and that this is how my life and relationship with the Lord should look. Each day that I failed, or hadn’t lived up to my own expectations, I spiraled even deeper into despair. The next day wasn’t truly a new day as I was somewhat acting like it was, because deep down, I was carrying all that disappointment from the day before. I was so blind of this cycle in my own life until this moment with these women who were telling it like it was. That one woman who was bold enough to admit that she didn’t think she heard from God. For heaven’s sake, at the end of the day at a women’s retreat, and she hadn’t heard from God?! Yea, that’s right. From that moment of honesty, she sparked a genuine and truth filled conversation amongst the women in that room.
What could happen if we stopped shoulding with our quiet times? What would our community look like if we started talking about it? Instead of not talking to each other and assuming what we should be doing – what happens if we talk about it? Maybe then we wouldn’t walk around thinking we were the only weirdos. In our heads, we stop ourselves from doing things that build community. What is community? What is it supposed to be? I know that’s a pretty big can of worms, but I’m pretty sure holding each other at arms length and not communicating with one another about our daily lives isn’t the way to go.