Have you ever had one of those mornings where all your issues seem to just lay themselves out right before your eyes? It’s like all of a sudden you see exactly what’s going on, and you begin to get a real sense of what is going to be required for you to turn things around. And then you make a fatal mistake by uttering those two terrible words…

“I gotta…”

Think you should be writing more? “I gotta get to work on that book idea…” Should you start bookexercising again? “I gotta get to the gym more often…” Missing old friends? “I gotta start being more sociable…” Thinking about getting the band back together? “I gotta start writing songs again…” Feeling a little far from God? “I gotta start reading my Bible and praying more…”

It’s amazing how two little words can turn something you’re passionate about or something you enjoy doing or something that could truly benefit you into grueling, grinding, miserable work of the most frustrating order. Suddenly, writing becomes a pressure cooker. Staying in touch with friends seems more like a weekly requirement. A relationship with God becomes a guilt-ridden minefield of good intentions gone awry.

It’s always astounded me, the way I’m able to put pressure on myself in a way no one else can or even does. Is there an editor somewhere expecting a manuscript from me by the end of the month? No. Do I need to set a new personal best time for riding my bicycle around my neighborhood because I need to qualify for some competition? No. Most of all, do I even possess the strength within myself to be the kind of Christian I should be?

No.

The problem with being a Christian and “I gotta” is that it flips the teachings of Jesus on their heads. When God puts a motivation on our hearts, what He wants us to do is turn to Him for the strength to do what needs to be done, not to place even more demands on ourselves. Instead of praying about my issues, I begin to obsess over all the things I should be doing more of. So I start putting forth greater effort, only to find I’m almost immediately overwhelmed and utterly depressed by my lack of success.

“I can’t do it,” I say to myself. “I’ve failed … again.”

You know what the only thing I gotta do? Trust God. Rely on His strength, not mine. Stop pressing so hard. Find some joy again in the things I love and stop making everything some sort of competition or deadline. Accept that if I make the attempt He’ll meet me halfway, instead of believing I have to complete the work and then present it to Him.

None of this is optional. I gotta do it.

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