Thursday, 23 March 2017

Duty is gift

I wrote this post a couple years ago and just looked it up as I put together my talk for the next session in our Lenten Series.  This "duty is gift" idea has really transformed how I understand vocation and the sacrament of the present moment. It has greatly increased my ability to discover joy in ordinary time. I hope it will be a blessing!


"Yet, O Lord, you are our Father;
we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are the work of your hand."  Isaiah 64:8

I have been tripping up over the idea of "duty". This stubborn resistance to being told what to do. I have this association with oppression (okay, that's extreme) or unfortunate, toilsome obligation.  Mainly I suddenly recognized that I have been thinking of the execution of duty as something that I must begrudgingly do to repay God for all His providential goodness or in hopes of meriting a future reward. And though I don't like a lot of the things I am supposed to do, mostly because I don't feel very adept at doing them, I do them and hopefully can motivate myself enough with the thought of who will be benefited and how (ho-hum) it will please God, so boo-hoo, sigh and get on with it. 
It's like, I strongly want to love God with all I've got, I want to love others 'til my heart bursts and doing my duties is some burden I must carry out begrudgingly to fulfill those two commandments.

Except I'm totally wrong.

1) I am nothing. I have nothing but the gifts that God gives me out of love for me. From the air I breathe, the heart that pumps blood through my arteries, for those arteries themselves, to the family in my care, the roof over my head, the rivers and mountains that fill my scenery. Existence itself, awareness itself, nothing apart from Him
2) I can do nothing in my own power. I can not fulfil any of these duties by my own ability. If I am "good" at something, it is because He has given me this talent. If I am "bad" at something, well, I guess He's lovingly withholding that ability from me right now. Maybe He's giving me the gift of an opportunity to patiently develop some perseverance in learning a new skill or fumbling through. Lovingly calling me to accept the challenge of improvement. Maybe He's teaching me humility in reminding me of my nothingness. Doesn't matter why. I just trust that He is all and I am naught.
3)  God is love. If we are chosen to follow Him it is only that He can use us to co-labour with His plan of love for others.
4) That we are chosen is a gift.  Thus, that we are invited to co-labour is a gift. 
Thus, every ordinary duty  from flossing my kids' teeth, to scrubbing the toilet, to making dinner, to picking up dirty tissues for the zillionth time that day is  actually the gift of God giving me the freedom to choose to co-labour with Him in giving of myself in that little task. Every word of encouragement of act of compassion or duty I perform is not counted as some good I've done, merited to me, but yet another gift from God, merited to His glory: the grace to participate in His labour of love. My good-deeds magnify Him, not me.

So wait, do good works then and obedience have a role in salvation?

Of course.

Because isn't salvation to abide with Him? To be free to worship Him without fear, holy and righteous in His sight? To be in His presence, eternally loving and praising Him?  And  because I'm guessing salvation is not linear temporally - Heaven after death, but beyond space and time, then every YES to some ordinary duty is His gift to us to enter into His will. Every duty I freely assent to co-labour in is an immersion in his merciful love for me, salvation.

So, with that I will joyfully, and with great thanksgiving embrace my housework, my kids' squabbles, and all the other beautiful opportunities to love Him and lose myself. 

"It is our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere, to give Him thanks."

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