A sense of obligation
It’s not that I don’t want any responsibility. I find reward in the mundane and the busy. I cook dinner for my family almost every night. I vacuum at least once a week, and my husband always has clean socks.
As much as I love these things, though, I also despise obligation. So the mood shifts when my husband says, “What’s for dinner?” Or the kids comment on how dirty their socks got by walking across the floor. Or my husband starts unfolding socks and throwing away any pairs where one sock has a hole, which, by the way, is just wasteful because he could always match one with another from a pair where one had a hole. It’s not like the two socks he threw away were always a pair that never was separated.
Obligation changes everything. I have identified what may or may not be a cyclical characteristic. Every so often, and not necessarily during the most obvious time, I consistently think a somewhat disturbing thought. “If I died right now, I’d be a martyr.” Now don’t get all bent about my thoughts. I realize it’s not the case, but at certain times, I perceive that it is my reality.
This resentment of obligation leaks, or rather erupts, into every corner of my life, and the results are varied. To my husband, it appears that I’ve misplaced my heart. To my friends, it probably looks like disinterest. To onlookers, I resemble a hipster (as in I’m not going to hug you just because you’ve been placed in front of me because that’s the way the rest of the world would react, and I refuse to react in any way similar to how everyone else reacts).
Displacing my heart is surely the most detrimental of these effects, although I’m sure I’ve caused some friends and acquaintances to experience what well-placed anger really feels like. Similarly, my husband was feeling the unintended consequences of my heartless contemptuously (fine, they might have been kind of intended), which led us into the office of our pastor.
First off, all should know that because of my suspicious nature, I was convinced, even before our meeting, that the whole thing was rigged. I walked in with a monster of an attitude with every intention of being thrown out. I know for a fact that the priest from the Catholic Church I attended as a child would have done just that had I opened my mouth with those intentions in his office. Then I’m sure my presence would have been restricted to the narthex to avoid cross contamination (look it up, it’s true).
Well, not only did my pastor not bat an eye, but also he reminded me to start keeping track of the times I felt like bursting with profanity by putting x’s on my calendar. I was slightly stunned, but my shock was countered with delight when he said five wonderful words.
“I’d like to meet weakly.”
Stop laughing. This is how I chose to interpret this because if I had heard that we had to meet every week, I’d have seen yet one more obligation in front of me. By hearing what I wanted to hear, I was under no obligation to do anything, and my mood immediately improved.
I’m kind of like a really bratty 4-year-old in that if I don’t feel like what I’m doing was my idea, I tend to behave like, well, a bratty 4-year-old. I won’t even use the phrase “deep down” when I say I know I’m a jerk for it.
Shortly after I behave this way, I will start thinking about something C.S. Lewis wrote in his autobiography. To paraphrase, Lewis said that it’s impossible to be joyful while whining about how hard it is to find joy. This struck me when I read it, and it continues to strike me, but not necessarily when it comes to joy.
It’s selflessness that comes to mind. When I am touting martyrdom, even if it is internally, I am focusing only on myself. I am the opposite of what I’m claiming to be. This kind of epiphany is the kind that makes me change my perception of every day. If I am thinking of how hard I work for others’ benefit, I’m not selfless or generous. I’m selfish and entitled.
Learning to value the purpose in the mundane is a challenge for me, to say the least. Selfish ambition is listed in Galatians 5 as an act against the Spirit, or a sin, and my human nature is to be selfish and entitled. The problem with that is that my selfish ambition ALWAYS leads to resentment and contempt because for some reason I begin to think my actions are far more pertinent than everyone else’s.
So seeing my days as obligatory will always result in a fall from grace, a grace I’m given by my God. My only obligation is to eagerly spread the word of God through my own words or actions (Romans 1), which involves a righteousness not obtained by me, but granted to me by the God whose purpose I fulfill.