Love & Duty
As you walk down the hall to my office and look up to the right you will see a sign that says, "Do what you love and you will never work a day in your life." I put it there for a couple of reasons. First, to remind me how much I love what I do - and how little I like jobs. Second, because I seem to have more than a few people drop by and disclose they are not doing what they love. I like to have them get a little foretaste of what I am most likely to say before we are finished.
I've probably lived by that simple code as much as anyone I know. I have actively avoided getting entangled by tasks that bore, de-energize, frustrate or take me out of my "zone" of enjoyment. In fact, in talking with a young friend the other day about my inevitable retirement he said, "Your working life is what everyone hopes for in life and retirement. To do what you love is what we are all after. What in the world are you thinking?" He was right. I have not worked a day for a couple of decades now.
Well, that's not entirely true because I teach a Sunday School and I have learned to do things that I do not love and, truth be told, have very little competence for. I tried to slough off the visitation, counseling, confronting, hand-holding and grief to others early on because it was not what I loved. I did not have the gift of compassion or mercy so there was no reason to go and sit with people about to go through surgery or just coming out. There was no benefit to them or me in saying hard things to a wandering spouse or sitting with my hand on the arm of one in deep waters. (I'm not proud of what I'm telling you.)
Then one day my wife, Carol, explained there is such a thing as duty. I knew that but always equated it with guilt or obligation. It was something that made you do what you didn't want to do. That's not duty. That's grudging obligation. Duty is what you do to honor your commitment to a calling to serve others. People don't care if I'm not good at compassion and they really don't care if I have all the answers in their darkest times. I realized it was not about doing only what I enjoyed or for which I had a feel. It was doing the necessary parts of what I had been called to do for them because that is my role and responsibility - even if it is not my love.
It is not out of guilt or obligation - and not yet out of love. Maybe someday. It is a duty and one that has begun to make me fit for eternity far more than doing merely what I love.