We don’t misquote Phillipians 4:13, but if you’re like me, my mind sometimes substitutes “I should” for “I can.”
- “I can” ace this test, in my mind, means “I should” ace it or I’m letting God down – along with my parents.
- “I can” hit the game winning home-run, means “I should” or I’m not believing God when it really counts – and He’s as disappointed as my teammates.
- “I can” teach Bible study – or go on a mission trip, or help the homeless…, means “I should” or I’ve forgotten that faith without works is dead – and God is keeping a list of my works.
- “I can” empty the dishwasher – or take out the trash, or cook dinner… means “I should” so I can get brownie points, or because if I don’t, my spouse will punish me with the silent treatment. God won’t talk to me, either.
Subtle. And completely different.
To help separate “I can” and “I should” in a less subtle way, think about babies.
Not one newborn has ever had this thought: “I should” work on holding my head up today.
Or a two month old —the little one doesn’t wake up in the morning thinking “I should” work on rolling over today, or mom and dad are going to be really mad.
Imagine the absurdity of a daily planner for a one-year old:
“I should” work on my balance and improve the speed of my walking or I’m going to be behind;
“I should” practice repeating sounds and learn to talk or the other babies are going to get more stickers on their developmental charts than I do.
Two reasons for remarkable growth during the first year of life:
- Babies don’t want to miss out.
- People are enamored with them.
And somewhere during our growing up journey, we forget that God is enamored with us. And because we think He’s mad at us, we lose our hunger for life and learning and adventure and risk-taking. We’re ok with missing out; mistakes are too painful and too costly.
Oh yes, it’s true:
- We’ll play for a trophy, or the bragging rights of a championship title.
- We’ll do our homework to make good grades… for cash..or a higher GPA.
- We’ll eat healthy to get skinny.
- We’ll go to the gym out of guilt or shame – or to get attention for a flat stomach or noticeable muscles.
- We’ll do chores to get what we want.
When do we lose the thrill of “I don’t want to miss out!”?
When do we begin to confuse “I can” with “I should”?
Maybe it’s when we begin to think God is like us – and the struggling, hurting people we bump into every day – or even live with. We think He’s anything but enamored with us. Some of us try to earn His love; others have given up the thought of even trying.
We picture God with some giant clipboard and stop watch – and we’re behind and never enough. He’s not choosing us for His team until we get our act together – run faster, don’t fall down, do more, get it right – for heaven’s sake!
What if God is really more like the parent of a newborn? He just wants to scoop us up and hold us close – and take a deep breath and tell us how good we smell! He smiles at us so we can learn to smile, too. He plays patty cake and itsy-bitsy spider because He loves watching us learn the beauty of “Follow Me.”
- He doesn’t scowl when we stumble; He knows we’re getting stronger.
- He doesn’t keep score – when we get it right or get it wrong; He knows we’re learning. Mistakes only mean we’re trying something new, or we still need to mature.
- He never uses a sticker chart; I’ve looked through all four Gospels. If behavior management worked, I’m sure Jesus would have used it with the disciples at least once.
When we believe lies about who God is, the world becomes a place to compete or endure or escape —instead of a million opportunities to engage and delight and explore.
When we believe lies about who God is, we get sick. A loss of appetite is one of the first signs of sickness; we lose our appetite for real living and adventure and risk-taking.
When we believe lies about who God is, other people become competitors or critics or enemies— instead of trusted friends and lovers and helpers.
As a trusting child of God, I can live a full and free life today –
- There’s a giant, real world to explore and delight in – and a good God who offers this invitation, “Follow Me.”
- God will help me when I don’t know how; there are people I can trust who will help me, too.
- God’s grace will heal me when I get hurt; there are other grace carriers I can trust.
- When others trust me, I can help them, too.
- When others trust me, I can be a grace carrier – and celebrate maturity and healing for them, too.
“I CAN do all things through Christ who strengthens me” because He is enamored with me and I am really alive and free.
We believe children can experience this kind of grace in Christian education.
Trusting grace in education is a wild adventure, so much of it – but really learning to teach and lead and leave out compliance, punishment, and all things shame-based and behavior modification-like…there is not much left of “traditional education” in our work.
And it really works! Students are alive and engaged and hungry! They’re learning instead of just performing. And they’re experiencing what is means to be loved and to love. What a brilliant design…only God!
I look forward to your comments; please share your thoughts and wrestlings…join the conversation. You’re welcome here.