Not because we must

IMG_1302It was just the two of us around the table the day I first heard the words that are shaping my life during these days of Lent. I was hungry for Jesus and had emailed ahead and asked my spiritual director if we could, please, share communion when we met. After we had listened to God’s heartbeat together, she pulled the plate bearing the bread close and, smiling, spoke the simple words that filled my eyes with tears, “We come not because we must but because we may.”

I’m pondering, these days, the various habits in my life that have arisen out of a must: the run each morning, the nap each afternoon, the need to stay home most evenings. Most of my quiet, listening life began from a must. But I’m realizing that though I still need them all, most of these habits have deepened from a must to a may: I do them now not just because I have to but because I want to, because God meets me and loves me there, because they have become treasured places where I can meet him and love him back. I do them now because, in the seven years of this slower pace, Jesus has been dismantling, brick by brick, my wall of misbeliefs about who He is and who I am. I’ve learned that God is not the one who drives me. That he wants the real me, not the me I think I should be. And I’m learning to see my limitations as training wheels, helping me find my balance, guiding me into a way of listening and loving that fits the personality, giftings, and body God has given me.

It’s easy, though, even when a must has morphed into a may, for me to keep hiding behind the must. It feels far safer to my people-pleasing self to turn down an invitation based on “I can’t. . .” or “I have to. . .” than a simple choice to be still. Stillness, in my mind, has appeared too close to laziness for comfort and even though I’ve known that God calls us to stillness (Ps 46:10) the part of me that’s afraid of what people will think whispers, “You’d better look busy, or at least look like you have a good reason for not being busy.”

But here’s the truth: while God calls us to good, hard work, he also calls us to stillness. And the work, if it’s love-work that lasts, can only flow out of the stillness that lets us know ourselves small and dependent and loved. That’s why Jesus so often left the crowds that followed him and headed off somewhere to be alone with his Father (Luke 5:16).

My soul and body confirm what God commanded and Jesus modelled: I’m not made for a hectic pace. It shuts me down. It cuts me off from God and others and myself. It keeps me from being able to love. So I’ve decided: The world can go on chattering all it wants about importance and busyness and making sure I matter. I’m choosing (yes, choosing, not because I must but because I may) to keep living a life that holds enough space for me to hear my Father whispering over me that I already matter.

The must of my limitations has been a gift from God to me, creating enough space for me to begin to hear his heart beat with love. The growing freedom that has allowed the shift from must to may has been his gift too. Now everything within me cries to love him back by choosing to stand rooted in the truth of who he is and who I am, listening and loving and giving myself to be ever more wholly his not because I must but because I may.

Lent is a lot about choosing. Choosing to repent, to turn back again from whatever distractions have been nipping at our heels and swirling in front of our eyes to see and follow Jesus. Choosing to follow. Choosing to love. Choosing, in my case this year, to keep listening, only with even more intentionality, owning this way of living now as a may rather than a must, an even more conscious choice to live in ways that help me listen to God’s heartbeat and be who He has called me to be for the sake of the world.

We walk these next steps of the journey with you
in the same way we come to your table—

not because we must

but because we may:

because you have drawn us close and made us long to be closer still,

because you have graced us with freedom to choose,

because you have loved us so gently we have found ourselves loving you.

And now, fuelled by that love and that longing, we do choose—

life in the freedom of may rather than a cowering behind must,

and a growing into full-bodied, whole-souled attentiveness

that opens us to love.

Grace us, we pray, with eyes clear to see you

hearts bold to follow

and an ever-deeper conviction of your love

that roots us firmly in the truth

of who you are and who we are in you.

In the name of the One who chose us

not because he had to

but because he could,


This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. momfan

    The final thought, “In the name of the One who chose us not because he had to, but because he could,” helped me understand all over again that the reason God values our freedom to choose to love and follow him or not, is because we are made in his image and he is free! That he has chosen to love us out of his perfect freedom, just because he really does love us, is the most amazing thing! So happy we’re being made free by his love too!

  2. Julia Putzke

    “But here’s the truth: while God calls us to good, hard work, he also calls us to stillness. And the work, if it’s love-work that lasts, can only flow out of the stillness that lets us know ourselves small and dependent and loved. ”
    I needed this today, for how many things I’m trying to do to look busy, yet hearing Jesus whisper to be still.
    Thank you for writing this today.
    I’m going to thinking about that “may” over “must” for a bit ❤️

  3. KD


  4. alightedpathsite

    Spectacular. Beautifully contemplated and processed. You could have written this for me! Love it. Thanks!

  5. Nan

    Thank you. These are words that I needed to read today. Bless you for sharing them!

  6. cherpowers

    Just awesome, TX! For me, this re-inforced, I’m sober today because, today, I can choose not to drink . . .

  7. michellelisenbee

    This feels like such truth to me. I recently wrote in my journal, “I am coming to realize even more how much quiet time and contemplation are important to my well-being. This whole week has been stressful for me and today I realized it’s mostly because I haven’t had enough time to be alone, quiet and thinking – and not even thinking really, just digesting, being, letting things settle.” Your words about “must” and “may” ring so true. For me, perhaps I need to make my quiet time more of a “must” and let myself fully accept that solitude and white space are true needs, and be okay with that (even if I think others might not be…) Thank you so much for sharing.

  8. healthforhim7

    Thanks for posting this! I really needed to hear it. Today is one of those days that could have easily turned into “I must” days for sure but God knew what I needed even before I asked and thankfully it is turning into one of those “I may” days.? Resting in Him!

  9. specialkkluthe

    Loved your thoughts here! It is very hard to fight against our culture’s value of busyness but I too find that I am unable to function well trying to keep up with all the things I “should” be doing (even in the church’s eyes sometimes). I agree that the best way to live is listening to God’s leading. He alone knows what we can handle, and what we’re specifically called to as individuals.

  10. Laura J. Wolfe

    Yes!!! Yes!!! Yes!!! I love the truth you have written about. So grateful for these words and the reminder of “not because we musts” of life❤

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