-I sit still for hours, working through spreadsheets and emails in order to compile a summary...because I have to provide a thorough and accurate report.
-I check to make sure the door is locked...because I have to make sure the house is safe.
-I sit at the dinner table while the conversation darts around me because I have to. Interrupting or leaving would be selfish.
"I have to." This is how I often feel about daily tasks. The task is a duty that I have to do. When I look at my To Do list and see a variety of tasks (errands, chores, meals, emails, shopping, etc) I see only "things I have to do." I do see some gradient with regards to: how long will each take? how painful will each one be? are there any enjoyable things on the list? are there any with deadlines? Otherwise, I just arrange them in the most efficient order. Outside tasks precede inside tasks, since I want to stay home once I get there. Easy tasks precede complex ones because I'm procrastinating and also because I can devote more focus to the challenging tasks if the simple ones are eliminated from my mind.
Is there another way to look at such things? Today I was thinking about the following categories for my activities:
-Responsibilities: areas of freedom and thus also responsibility (as Thomas Paine would say). For example, having my own room and keeping it clean.
-Obligations: things that I've agreed/promised to do. For example, taking turns cooking dinner.
-Kindnesses: things that I choose to do out of love. For example, writing letters to Christians who are in prison simply because they follow Christ.
I wonder if this type of framework would help me to see that I am in control over my activities - not the other way around. I want to be a servant of God, not a slave of my To Do list.
The "I have to" mentality doesn't only exist with chores, work, and errands. It also exists with my interactions. If I'm in a conversation and want to leave, I never-the-less will stay until it ends. I don't want to interrupt the flow of the discussion because that seems selfish to me and might disturb or hurt others. If I'm tired and my roommate wants to talk to me, I talk to them because I want to care for them. If they are hurting, I want to listen and try to relieve them of the hurt somehow. If they're not hurting, I want to guard against hurting their feelings by ignoring them. It seems that a lot of my social interaction is dictated by a desire to guard against hurting others. Is that right? Is that what love is? Because at the same time, I find myself avoiding difficult subjects because it might hurt them in the moment. That's not always the best choice. So, how should I think about the other person in order to love as Christ did?
Ah, I have to get back to work!
Edit: (12:52 pm) I was just thinking about the parable of the two sons. It seems that one says, "I don't have to obey!" while the other says, "I have to obey!" Is the right response to say: "I want to obey you, father." The Psalms say of Jesus Christ, "Then I said, 'Behold, I come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart.'" (Psalm 40:7-8; Hebrews 10:7) Is this the abundant life that Christ spoke of, the freedom which we have under the new covenant as God renews our minds and writes His word on our hearts?