Words of Hope: The Danger of Must

I recently wrote a piece about Dad being an amazing culture changer and described with intensity a father who neglects his daughter and a mother who criticizes hers. My husband Shann and I talk about Words of Hope in the evenings sometimes. He is always encouraging and supportive. As we discussed this recent Words of Hope I wrote, he asked me thought-provoking questions about the word “must.” I had written, “This dad/mom must…” Shann is a clinical psychologist. He reminded me when we try to move culture with “must” language, change becomes stagnated. Must, need to, should—these cannot change us. This voice of condemnation, shortcoming, anger, and shame cannot bring the healing we aspire to. I admit I feel anger at these parents. I feel justified demanding they make changes in their parenting and stop hurting their children. Then I return the verse Dad and I loved to quote to each other, “Man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life God desires.” (James 1:20)  

What does bring culture change? Overflowing love. Paul says it well in Galatians. He asks the Galatians, “…does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?” Paul wonders why they would run to the law instead of living in the Spirit. I ask this of myself. I cannot be the parent and loving friend, or follower of Christ that I desire through my own adherence to good and right behavior. As hard as I try with my own strength, I will fall short. These parents, as hard as they try to be better parents, will fall short as much as they want to follow my recommendations for better relationships. Yes, if the mom or dad wants a good and healthy relationship with their daughters, love must be at the center. This is something they cannot MUSTer. Instead, this comes as an overflow of God’s spirit. This culture change comes from being loved by God, forgiven by God, held, and strengthened by God so that we can overflow with love for those He gives us to love and serve. 

I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? – Galatians 3:5 

Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? – Galatians 3:3