May I tell you a secret? For those of you who know me personally and do life with me on a regular basis, it won’t be fresh revelation. But for others—those of you who only know me as the woman who writes these words in this public place—my disclosure might come as a surprise. Are you ready?
I’m here today, writing these words, out of obligation—an allegiance to a gift that once flowed so naturally through my heart and my pen.
Obediently, I take to the task, not because of some burning desire to engage with my words, but because I owe it to the woman I once was—a woman who easily and willingly penned the thoughts of her heart. That ability was shattered by the rigors of cancer treatments. I want it back. Life would be so much easier (or so it seems) if desire was here to fuel my “want to.”
Obligation—the driving force behind most of my decisions these days. Obligation, not emotions, keeps me connected to my world . . . to people, to work, to faith, to God. I do what I must do—what I know is the right thing to do—in order to keep moving forward, believing that somewhere down the road my emotions will kick in and supplement obligation with a healthy dose of desire.
For now, my emotions remain unpredictable, yet another surrender that has been made in the name of health. I chose this, gave my good “yes” to the doctors when they asked for my consent regarding chemo, ovary removal, and a long-term drug that would block any remaining estrogen produced in my body. It was a good decision back then, the best one to prolong my life. But today, it seems too costly. In eradicating the cancer, I’ve eradicated most of my desire, and I find that a life based on obligation and void of desire is a very difficult life to live at times.
So be it. I’m not the first person to let go of desire in order to take hold of lasting life.
Why the confession? Why plead for your understanding and make it all about me and my woes today? Because in doing so, I believe there is a truth that surfaces for us all—a holy undertaking that typifies the life of an earnest believer.
Good health, optimal health, is often the result of hard surrenders. A choice for life is usually preceded by a choice for death . . . letting go of and stripping away the weight that keeps us tethered to the fleeting and unconfirmed desires of our infancy.
The life of a saint is a life of work, despite desire, emotion, or a lack therein. To grow up in Christ is to stay near him, move with him, lean into him, and learn from him. The life of a saint is a life of obligation. Once you give him your “yes,” you tether your forever to his. It’s the inescapable reality of salvation. God never promised us a life of ease. Instead, he promised us his presence in the unease, in the struggle, and in the sometimes torturous releases that best enable us to dig into, hold onto, and live unto his glory.
So what do we do when desire and emotions aren’t around to fuel our obligations?
We keep going. We base our choices for survival on good health, on previous faith, and in the truth that what is not always felt by us is felt by God. Knowing that he holds my desire—knowing that he hasn’t forgotten the woman I once was and the gifting I once felt—is enough to push me forward. I don’t have to understand it all; I just have to keep obliging my feet, my heart, and my mind to the faith that has carried me thus far. It will assuredly carry me home.
Obligation. It keeps me connected to God. It keeps him doing the same. We are holy, certainly, and beautifully obliged to one another, now and forever more. And that, sweet friends, is a secret worth sharing . . . one I won’t make you keep to yourself. Go ahead, tell everyone. You have our permission.
Peace for the journey,
How are you living out your obligation to God despite the difficult surrenders along the way? I’d love to come alongside you in prayer.