Thursday, October 20, 2011

31 Days: Letting Go of Obligations

Last night I fell into bed at 9:10. I was asleep by 9:11, I'm sure of it. And by somewhere around midnight, I was having the familiar dream that my right eyetooth was crumbling in my mouth.

I knew I had a post to write, but I just couldn't bear the thought. My nights have been lightening-fast this week, and they had finally taken their toll.

I have been, at times in my life, very bound to obligations. I pile and pile and pile stuff onto my plate and then the day comes when I fling that puppy like a frisbee and I just don't give a rip. So I'm not exactly the picture of "healthy balance".

The question I'm asking myself right now is, who am I really obligated to? Merriam Webster tells me that "obligation" means "a promise, a debt of gratitude". Well, the answers are obvious, yet I still need to tick down the list in my mind.

I'm obligated to God, to be faithful in His sight, to listen and hear, to allow Him to fill me so that I can serve when I'm tired and to go the heck to bed when my body is at its breaking point. This particular obligation means many things. It sometimes means different things on different days, but it always means faithfulness to that which I know is The Biggest Thing.

I'm obligated to my husband and my children. They get my time, my love, my effort and my willingness to stop and play even though playing isn't usually my first inclination.

I'm even obligated to those two almost-adult children who I have adopted into my heart over the past year. I'm obligated to love them even when they break my heart, and even when they do it the very same week.

There are obligations I have signed up for and there are obligations that defaulted to me. I am obligated today to find some Fall-themed napkins for Calvin's party tomorrow. I am obligated to buckle down and work on my book for a few hours later this morning, even if I'm not feeling particularly wise or witty. I'm obligated to press on with the potty training that I started earlier this week.

I'm not obligated to keep a magazine-worthy home or put a gorgeous meal on the table every evening. I'm not obligated to wear make-up every day. I am obligated to live a life of service, but I'm not obligated to say yes to every little thing that comes my way.

If you had hope that this post would hold the key to yanking off the hat of over-obligation and throwing it in the fire, then you may walk away disappointed, because I don't have good answers. I'm still searching for them myself.

It's important to follow through, to keep your word; but it's equally important to really know when enough is enough. It's critical to sometimes give yourself some grace, especially when you look behind you and still see the tail of a tornado whirring in your wake.

And so, it's back to square one, back to the One who began it all and put everything - even that tornado - in motion. My great hope right now is that in abiding there, the questions begin to answer themselves.

*For the rest of the Letting Go series, click here.


  1. Your mechanism of writing really soothes my soul.

  2. Oh, that the questions would answer themselves . . . instead of leaving me confused and second guessing every decision.

  3. I have the same plate piling then throw it away issue, my friend. I think keeping God as the center to the compass is the key and giving the day to Him is essential. I found this quote somewhere (I can't remember where...) " This is your day Lord, not mine. Whatever you want me to do, I will do. Whatever you don't, I won't."

  4. I always finding myself saying yes to too many things when all I really want to do is crawl under my covers and hide. It is a tough thing to say no or I'm sorry, I would love to, but I can't.

  5. I can really relate to this post. I've found out how important it is to prioritize and employ the age old acronym of J.O.Y - Jesus, Others, Yourself.

    Thanks for this :)

  6. I think we all do this... the hope would be that it is for the right reasons, and not not because we "think" we should or we aren't capable of saying "no". Or part of that "Good Girl" stuff ;) (which I'm reading right now, thank you for the recommendation!)

    Hang in there with the potty training!

  7. Good question for women.

  8. WOW. God is really pouring it on right now. I just read Emily, and now this!

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  10. I agree with Danielle; you soothe my soul. Thank you.

  11. Sooo good Shannan!!!! How do we end up so over-obligated?? I love how you ran down the list of things that you are and are not obligated to. I think that list will be very helpful to those that read it!! Abiding in the One who put all things in to motion is a very good and safe place to be, one may say that we are "obligated" to be there <3

  12. FPFG, definitely a soul soother and word weaver.
    As I strive daily to realize God's priorities/obligations for my life and let go of the "I should/guilt-producing-should do's" I feel free-er, free-er to follow His leading.
    "The heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps", Psalm 37:5

  13. I hear you. I flung my frisbee this morning, in a desperate attempt for a quiet morning at home. You know, sometimes obligations conflict and it's a real mess. A mess like my house. Right now. This instant.
    I need a cookie. Is there a way you can explain cookies and how they relate to obligations, because I feel like there's a connection but my brain of very little size is having a hard time finding it.

  14. Very refreshing point of view!

  15. I am so blessed when I come on and read what you share each day...thanks so much for being vunerable and genuine with all of us out here in blogland...the things that you have written have challenged and strengthed my faith and more often then not, have left me with a smile on my face=)

    so thanks...and I am praying for you and your family as you guys step out in faith in this totally new, scary chapter of your lives!!

    -Adriane @

  16. I think you're also obligated to yourself- to taking care of you so you can be your best self and help others.

    "Put the oxygen mask on yourself FIRST and then help others."


  17. I'm with Tina, who commented right above me.

    If we don't take care of ourselves, whatever that looks like for each person, then we are no good to anyone else around us.

    I'm glad you went to bed early and fell asleep quickly.

    I've been known to over-obligate's a serious the life and joy right out of you.

    I usually do it for acceptance and approval.

    I have this "responsible" craziness in my head that tells me I'm responsible for everyone else around me.

    It's been 20 years of telling myself that those thoughts are wrong thoughts....I suppose it might be the "thorn in my side." I may be dealing with layer after layer til Jesus returns.

    Whatever it takes to turn my eyes to Him, right?

  18. YEah I was way behind over here... but I just got myself all caught up and have to say some combined things for all the posts I just read... 1) you make me laugh like crazy. 2) You make me think like crazy. 3) Your dishwasher is stylin'. 4) Ruby is hysterical.

  19. I to struggle with not being able to say NO..when i start to lose my joy in serving the Lord and helping others i know something is not right and its time to slow down..its a true sign that something is wrong and we need to seek the Lords will and ask him what he would have us to do..not what we want to do and to stop worrying about what people think. If God is not in it its not worth it anyway.

  20. I loved your description of filling to plate of obligation so high and then reaching a point where you fling it like a frisbee and just don't give a rip! What a great image! As one of those infamous good girls, I feel like I should say yes to too many thanks. It is exhausting. Now all I can think about is flinging that frisbee : ) Thanks for your beautiful posts.

  21. yes, yes. just getting back to him.
    my, how i am ever learning this.

  22. I completely relate. I was just telling someone today that I had a stack of frisbees on my desk.

  23. Thank you for reminding me I am not alone with struggling to find balance and with over extending myself at times with obligations. Thanks for the reminder that God and family are the real priorities.

  24. YES. I needed this post today. Enjoy your blog always.