Father Randy Dollins: Encountering the ‘shoulds’ of life
Molly Jo announced to her coworkers that she was pregnant. Her morning cheer changed into afternoon sorrow – what happened? She was informed of what she “should” do, i.e., quit smoking, stop drinking, read several books, start saving for college, take these vitamins, etc. The influx of “shoulds” defeated her. Having a baby seemed to be a burden. Molly Jo was comparing where she was at, in the moment, with the ideal of what an expectant mother “should” be.
I think we all have encountered, and become victims to, the “shoulds” of life. When we compare an ideal future with a negative present reality, our internal response often is pessimistic. We are oppressed, rather than inspired, by the thing we “should” be doing or the person we “should” become. Our response to the burden often is resistance and rebellion. We are upset with the way things are and like to complain about it.
When we are victims of the “shoulds,” who we are and where we are is bad. What is the alternative? How can we escape this pressure motivated inner conflict that makes us victims, that makes us feel like failures? We must stop being victims and become victors. The victim is a slave to an external authority, whereas the victor is free and chooses to act. The victor encounters the world in a positive way saying, “Right now, things are not how I think they should be, thus I choose to act so as to bring about a change.”
Jesus modeled this positive way of encountering the “shoulds” of life. Dying on the cross was Jesus’ fate, the Father willed it, but it was not an oppressive burden. Jesus was a victim of a religious sacrifice, but he was not a victim to his fate. Jesus said, “For this reason, the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (John 10:17-18, RSV). Jesus is the victor who acts out of freedom. Jesus chooses his action and is responsible for the outcome.
We are called to follow the example of our Lord and be people of action. If Christianity is just an external authority that dishes out “shoulds,” then it will never fulfill us. The truth of our faith is that we must choose it; and like Jesus, we are called to choose to lay down our lives for the sake of the Kingdom of God. That’s what we “should” do.
Right now, Molly Jo is not the mother that she will become. She is going to need to choose to lay down her life for her child. Pregnancy is not a prison that keeps a woman from enjoying life, but rather, it is an opportunity to encounter the fullness of life as Jesus modeled it for us. Molly Jo should quit smoking, whether this makes her a victim or a victor is up to her.
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