You know what it’s like to act from a sense of duty; it’s expected, something you have to do it to maintain your “good person” status. Looking in the mirror would be a bit uncomfortable if you don’t do what you believe you ought. Duty has it’s place – as long as joy gets equal time. Sometimes, unexpectedly, duty delivers joy!
Revelation is the unexpected intrusion of external thought or insight, mountain-top moments that decorate your life like candles on a birthday cake. And like candles, they reveal or illuminate something waiting in the shadows of understanding until you’re able to process and put it into practice.
The past two weeks were S-L-O-W. I discovered a whole new level of allergic reaction and didn’t get a lot done. Still, God wastes nothing and the experience produced precious insights. In this post, I’d like to share what I discovered about the relationship between duty and joy.
I didn’t ride once during those two weeks. The horses got fed every day and my amazing husband kept everything clean. Once back to 85% ability and strength, I craved a ride. Twenty-one year old Q is like many of us with “age.” Without regular exercise we stiffen up and lose ground. After a little hoof balancing, spot treatment for a chronic summer skin reaction, curry and vacuum, Q and I rode out.
The Relationship Between Duty and Joy
My goal? I just wanted to ride. For me—not because good stewardship required it. To enjoy the coolish humid morning breeze from horseback. No lesson plan. No expectation from Q except to be willing and to stretch his legs. I wasn’t committed to anything but joy in the moment.
This is where I confess that some days getting out to groom and saddle requires a shot of will power. Five minutes into grooming my first horse I wonder why it was so hard getting there.
“Why is it so hard to get out and get moving?”
I know why, because I’ve had this talk with myself a hundred times. Inertia. Physics teaches that an object at rest tends to remain at rest and an object in motion tends to remain in motion. For years I was always in motion. Now my days begin with study, writing, or working in the office. Going from rest to action is a significant transition. The older I get the more energy it takes to go from working mind to working body.
If you’re a horse geek, consider the level of energy a horse uses to go from stand still to collected canter in one beat. If you’re not a horse geek, consider a rocket launch. From dead stop to heaven-bound in the space of a breath.
Don’t be too hard on yourself if you experience complications of inertia. God created the physical laws, so He understands.
Everyone over forty understands.
Eager for Joy
I was eager to ride and eager for joy. Grateful for the opportunity. Motivation overcame inertia and I was ready to roll. Unless we’re moving, we miss the joy that awaits. Whoever said that success is 80% showing up is right.
Duty is often the catalyst that gets us moving.
Q and I bopped around the arena. A little free walk. Soft trot. Instead of following the rail I asked a lot of “what happens if” questions.
- What happens if I ask Q to lightly trot to a particular fence post across the arena?
- What happens if I use only my seat and one finger on his neck to turn?
- What happens to the quality of his gait when I smile? When I don’t?
- What happens if I breathe deeply?
We had a glorious ride! I smiled most of the time – just because! Joy does that.
Duty Creates Good Habits Which Improve Character
Duty guides us to good action. Whether it’s donating our time, energy, or money, or letting someone else have the last word—doing the right thing is always the right thing to do.
Habit is the norm. It’s what you do. Good habits begin by doing the right thing repeatedly until it becomes effortless. You do it because you do it. Eventually, you do it because you want to. You love it and you’d miss it if you didn’t.
That’s the amazing thing about duty. Done well, duty often miraculously disappears and joy takes it place. Does the nature of the duty itself change or are you changed? Transformation is the work of God.
For years I visited my dad from a sense of duty. I did what God expected me to do. Duty is something we do for ourselves. It is action taken so we don’t have to live with guilt or disappointing someone we love. I didn’t want to disappoint God or risk my “good person” card so I showed up.
Somewhere along the way God acted. He turned duty into joy and respect into love.
Highly Blessed by Doing My Duty
No one was more blessed from my “duty” than I.
Duty isn’t something you have to do. It’s something you choose to do. Don’t get too hung up on why you choose to do it. It’s not punishment. It’s opportunity. Partner duty with an open heart and teachable spirit.
If you’re not there yet, here’s the thought I want to end with:
Do your duty by doing the right thing. Until it becomes joy, purpose to do something for the joy of it anyway.
Feed your spirit. Saddle up or head to the beach. Listen to a great sermon or go to the zoo and people watch.
Whatever speaks to your heart—make time to listen.
Choose joy. Even if you have to overcome a little inertia to make it happen.