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.