Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Duty Meets Delight

Duty, obligation, commitment, and obedience.

Don’t those sound like loathsome terms to our 21st century ears?  We prefer delight-oriented tasks, learning, serving, and everything else we can possibly choose.  

Over the holidays, I started watching the first two seasons of Downton Abbey – a delightful time killer if ever there was one.  It’s given me fuel for thought that even enters my dreams at night.  I would love some international perspective on this whole idea of duty - and not the kind we pay to bring in our electronics at the airport or border crossing.

Downton Abbey portrays the whole idea of household help as a non-optional institution that benefits both the servant and the master.  Many of us live in third world countries where we are expected to hire local gardeners and maids in keeping with our “position in society” (as foreigners), whether we particularly need them or not.  Some of us are conversely placed in the position of serving whether we feel like it or not.

Presently I am in both positions at once.  I have a gal who has helped in our home since the children were little, and now she is like a member of the family, and my kids would never dream of letting her go.  I’d like to believe that Edith works for us with both a sense of duty and delight, but maybe not both simultaneously. 

Meanwhile I find myself serving in ways that I would never particularly choose, just because “someone has to do it.”  Sometimes there is joy in the deed, but sometimes, not so much.

Daily I struggle with the conflict between duty and delight.  So far I’ve not reconciled either.  Ideally, I think, delight should come naturally from service done “as unto the Lord.”  When I find myself begrudging the time, energy, and sometimes money required by my service, it is only because my attitude is out of whack.

As a friend, please don’t encourage me to quit.  Don’t tell me that I don’t have to live under a weight of “ought, should, and must.”  The fact is that I sometimes must obey, regardless of how I feel about it.  We do each other a huge disservice when we suggest too quickly that maybe "the grace of God is lifting" (whatever that means), and we no longer have to continue in a certain ministry.

At the same time I’ve been bingeing on Downton Abbey, I’ve been reading a biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  Bonhoeffer has inspired me to listen more to the Holy Spirit and to walk in obedience to His Word and His voice in 2013, no matter how I may feel about it on any given day. 

My goal is to seek joy in daily service and sacrifice.  Do you think that's a worthy ambition?

Sometimes we simply should do our duty, fulfill our commitments, and obediently do what we know we must.  Our generation needs to rise up and combine the old-time missionary commitment with the modern joy and delight that is only possible when we do things with a right heart.

It's a fine balance, trying to not make a god out of either duty or delight.

How about you?  How are you facing the rest of 2013?  Any resolves that might encourage the rest of us?  Any lessons learned from Downton Abbey, if you’ve seen it?

IRL*  I’m happy to be blogging again after a little break!  Hope you'll join me here every other Wednesday or so.


  1. That is so funny that you've been watching Downton Abbey because I've been thinking of ordering it! You may have me convinced...

    I think you're so right that there are many things we have to do out of duty, but they can become a delight if our attitudes are right. I pray that the Holy Spirit will fill my mind so I can praise and thank God during the duller duties. (I can't really say, "Sorry, the grace has lifted and I can't cook dinner anymore." Ha ha ha)

  2. I do recommend watching it!

    The whole "grace of God" is another subject altogether. We had a pastor tell us with a perfectly straight face that "the grace of God" was not on them as a church to participate in missions. Huh? Sort of like not having the grace to cook for your family, right?

    Nice to see you!

    1. Hmmm, I may have to use the "not having the grace to cook" excuse.

      "My goal is to seek joy in daily service and sacrifice. Do you think that's a worthy ambition?"

      I think it is a very worthy ambition. I'm from the generation that is very much into the just quit when the going gets too tough. It drives me NUTS. We so rationalize the reasons behind it and put the "God-spin" on the reasoning, so it sounds good. But, it is not right. I've been very guilty of coming up with reasons/excuses as to why I can't do something. What I'm learning is that if God has called me to something, He is not going to abandon me mid-stream, when the excitement or newness wears off. Yes, this particular job/ phase of life maybe temporary, but I must keep going. Finish the race as Paul says.

      Now,I must go figure out dinner plans if my family is to eat. No matter what excuses there are, there isn't anywhere to "pick up dinner".

    2. The "God-spin" indeed. It sounds good, but it is not right. Well put.

      Once again, I lay out a vaguely sketched idea tumbling in my head, and then my readers flesh it out for me. Thanks for commenting.

      Let's finish the race together!

  3. I enjoyed relating to you - from delighting in Downton Abbey and daily struggling with duty and delight. Been a missionary many years and I continue to seek the balance! Haven't got it all figured out but am grateful for the Body of Christ- that we are in this together!


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