Getting Past the “Shoulds”
By Kara Powell
Executive Director, Fuller Youth Institute
Three months ago at our Fuller Youth Institute (FYI) Los Angeles Youth Ministry Network, my friend and partner, Chap Clark, shared some insights about Galatians 5 that I’ve been meditating on for the last three months. In the midst of the holidays, there are so many shoulds that drive my life: what I should do as a wife, what I should do as a mom, what I should do as a leader, as a daughter, as a friend, as a neighbor, as a room parent, as a soccer team manager, as a fill-in-the-blank. In most cases, no one is telling me what I should do; I’m pretty adept at coming up with that list myself.
What does God think I should do? I’m (slowly) memorizing the first verses of Galatians 5 because I love Paul’s answer. Paul writes in verse 1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
Sounds like pretty typical Pauline epistle stuff, right? It gets even better in verse 2: “Mark my words. I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourself be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all.”
In the first century church, circumcision was the ultimate behavioral litmus test. It was the ultimate should. Paul is telling the church of Galatia that if they buy into that should, they are missing out the full freedom of Jesus.
Instead, Paul gives a different goal in Galatians 6b when he writes, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”
Faith through love.
Not a should. Well, unless you count faith and love as shoulds. Those aren’t the types of shoulds that normally steer my life, though.
What would it look like to have the next two holiday weeks focused on faith through love instead of the expectations that we place on ourselves? I know my next two weeks would be far more relaxed and centered and “Jesus-y.” That’s what I want for me and my family, and it’s what I want for our broader Fuller Youth Institute friends and family also.
Read more Christmas reflections from Fuller faculty, alumni/ae, staff, and students.