Letting go of obligation


I spent this past weekend on retreat.  It was absolutely wonderful to get out of the house and be where I could truly revel in silence and communion with God.  I was able to go to mass, listen to some talks about mercy, and was even able to talk to someone in a short session of spiritual direction.

In that conversation, she noticed what she called an “interesting word choice”.  I was talking about discernment and what to do with certain life decisions and mentioned that I felt “obligated” to do something.  She suggested praying on that word and seeing why it was what I had said.  The retreat center has a labyrinth and so I headed outside and decided to pray and walk and see what happened.

If you aren’t familiar with how to pray a labyrinth, let me give you the short version explanation.  You come to the entrance with an intention that you are praying over, then start walking at a regular pace (don’t stop!).  The first walk in to the center is the “purgative” path.  Once you hit the center, you stop and enter the “illuminative” path of the journey.  And then you walk out the way you came in on the “unitive” path.  (For a much more thorough explanation click here.)

So I started my journey asking God to just clarify to me what I need to know about “obligations”.  And really, it all came out simply.

Obligation and duty and all these responsible words are really useless.  They should all be thrown out the window, and instead I need to embrace “love”.  Because if one truly loves God, then whatever obligations or duties towards him will become acts of love.  If one truly loves their family, then any obligations or duties cease to be so, and instead are acts of love.  And that is what I need to strive for in my daily discernment.

When something comes up that feels like an obligation, I need to evaluate if I’m doing that thing out of love, or a misplaced sense of duty.  And I need to ask, is this truly the most loving thing I can do?  If I’m discerning our schooling choice, I need to stop asking “What should we do?” but “What is the most loving and best choice for the children and our family?”.

It was immensely freeing to realize this on my way “in” to the center.  I was able to take some moments to mediate on it, and then walk out while forming a concrete mindset on my way out, uniting what I learned to who I am so that I can take it with me into my daily life.

So here I am, trucking along on the every day things, trying to let go of the obligations and duties, and focus on doing the most loving thing I can do right now.  Taking it one moment at a time, focusing deeply on the thing I need to do.  Kids certainly don’t make this easy, with constant interruptions and demands, but I’ll take those as learning opportunities.  For me and for them!


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