I am a doer. I make a plan, I execute it, and success results. This was a recipe I applied to countless ventures, and it worked. It was effective. I had a sense of control over life. When plans were made meticulously, they could not fail.
But then, life happened. Literally. New life joined our family in the form of premature twins. Unplanned. Unplanned?! As it turns out, my plans did not align with God’s plans for my life. I needed a swift kick in the pants to remind me that I was, most definitely, NOT in charge. I got the message loud and clear. I heard it when I was told there were two babies in there. I heard it when I was hospitalized at 26 weeks. I heard it when I was told one may not survive. I heard it when I was told I needed an emergency C-section at 31 weeks. I heard it everyday for three months in the NICU. I heard it.
There is a saying people say that is so misleading: God doesn’t give you more than you can handle. Think about that… yes, He does. He gives us more than we can handle so that we are brought to our knees, acknowledging that we need Him to get through the crises of life.
When crisis falls around you like a blanket, humility usually follows somewhere not too far behind.
As a doer, accepting help was….hard. Humbling. Necessary.
I learned to ask others for help and accept unsolicited offers of help. While this was uncomfortable to my core, it was part of what held things together. My spouse and I committed to being home with our son nightly for a dinner meal and family time to try and maintain some normalcy for him during this tumultuous season. A gracious, giving spirit formed a meal train. Meals arrived at our door day after day. This enabled me to focus on our son when I was home and on our twins while in the NICU, minimizing any concern for details I did not have the head space for, such as meal planning. My mother-in-law familiarized herself with the staples in the fridge. I would come home from the hospital to find it stocked with the things my son liked most, the things that felt like home. A dear friend brought a care package to the NICU of snacks and comfort items for our whole family.
How does a doer become a receiver? Will you be brought to your knees? Will you take inventory of your “shoulds”?
“Shoulds” are what CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) calls cognitive distortions. Common examples I often hear from patients include:
- I should be further in my education.
- I should be further in my career.
- I should have accomplished more.
- I should work out more.
- I should be in better shape.
- My house should be cleaner.
The “should” messages we have for ourselves birth our feelings of inadequacy. For example, let’s look at the first “should” listed above and examine the inadequacy message.
I should be further in my education. I only have a high school degree while my friends are about to graduate from college.
When we build our self image on our “should” messages, we form a less-than self-image. This feeds depression and anxiety.
I should be self-sufficient. That was my “should”. God teaches us that we need each other. We are relational by nature. When we learn to lay down our plans and our “shoulds”, we make room for connection with others and connection with God. We make room for others to use their spiritual gifts in our lives.
What are your “should” messages?