Obligation and Expectation

I should be sleeping right now.  In fact, I should have been asleep a couple hours ago.  I could have been.  I almost was.  But I said to myself, “you know, Rachel, there are a couple things you could get done now, rather than leaving them for tomorrow, and you could still be in bed by 11:00pm.  Just do them.”  So, I did.  Now, two hours later, after getting those two things done in the midst of a conversation with a friend, I am still awake, wanting to go to bed, but also feeling obligated to actually write something of substance for this blog, which I have neglected since it’s creation.

What to write about…health – the health benefits of getting enough sleep?  Of eating right?  Of exercising?  It would be ironic, perhaps even hypocritical for me to reflect on those things, seeing as my nutrition today was not the best, and I most likely will not be getting  the sleep my body needs by the time I end up posting this entry.  Perhaps in another post.  Drawing on more ideas from today, perhaps I could reflect on the centrality of entertainment in American culture.  Or our obsessive need to always feel good, be comfortable, have fun.  Perhaps I could expound upon the superficiality I feel characterizes my life as of late.  On the vanity of all things in life, including me writing this blog post (thank you, Solomon, for Ecclesiastes).  “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities!  All is vanity.” (Ecc. 1:2).  Another time.  I could also comment on the superficiality of the church.  The lack of discipleship.  The lack of depth.  The lack of vulnerability and openness, in general and specifically in my home church.  But, again, I feel as if that is for another time.

What shall I write about?  The nature of obligation?  The nature of apathy?  These seem like good topics at this point, though I am not sure how well this will turn out.  Oh well, here I go.

Obligation.  In my mind, this concept is closely tied to feelings of guilt and shame (when obligations I have go unfulfilled or are completed haphazardly) or of pride and satisfaction (when I feel obligated to do something, and I do well and/or something good comes of the obligation).  I would assume these are the natural reactions of most people to obligations, but it is always dangerous to assume.  But I will work with this assumption nonetheless.  These reactions seem healthy, as long as they are not taken to extremes – obsessive guilt over an unfulfilled obligation, for example, or being proud, in the worst sense of the word, for an outcome one did not influence much.

I suppose another word for the concept I am bouncing around here is expectation.  Expectations are not necessarily a bad thing, but, as I was saying in regards to obligation, if taken to excess expectations can be trouble.  In my life, expectation has been a dangerous little bugger.   I always place high expectations on myself for practically anything I am involved in – school, friendships, health behaviors, my spiritual life – and thereby wear myself down, either by running myself ragged or failing to meet all my expectations.  And the expectations I feel others have for me add to this load (whether they actually have them for me or not, my belief that others also expect much from me drives me to act).  Yet, expectations can also push people to excel.  The athlete is pushed to perform, the student to study, the husband or wife to be a good spouse.

But is life all about excelling, about being or doing the best, about fulfilling all of your obligations?  Is life about achievement, or is it about the people you are achieving for?  Is it not the drive to excel that so often leads people to neglect friendships and family, to break ties when they are not “beneficial,” to beat down opposition all in the name of striving for excellence?  Shouldn’t the athlete perform because he or she enjoys the sport, the student study in order to learn (and use that learning to benefit others), and the husband or wife be a caring spouse because he or she loves his or her partner?  If only our (I say our to universalize, which I probably shouldn’t do…I will try to break the habit) focus could be on other people rather than ourselves and/or our own achievement…I believe the world would be a better place.  The world would see Jesus more if every self-proclaimed Christian cared more for a few individual people in their lives.

I need to take my own advice.  Who will I care for?  Who will I place above achievement and success and expectation?  How will I make this practical?  Where can I see this in practice, who can I emulate?  I leave you with these questions.  I pray they will challenge and convict as needed.


About rd734467

I am a seeker. A doer. An encourager. One who loves. One who longs to be loved. One who desperately yearns to make a difference in this world.
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