Our child returns from the church youth event or the school field trip and what do we ask? We ask the same thing that we asked when they came home from the three-year-old birthday party.
Did you have fun?
I never asked questions like did you learn anything or did you do good or did you draw closer to the Lord? No, same question every time. Did you have fun?
We want to be thrilled or fulfilled or excited or satisfied. Even those who hold a missional model of church pander to felt needs more than we would admit. As we seek to promote the latest church project or get folks to sign on the dotted line, we often don't appeal to one's sense of obligation. We use language that is merely an adult version of "don't you want to have fun?"
So what about duty?
As a child, Deirdre Sullivan's parents took her and her siblings to funerals. "Always go to the funeral," her father would say. She heard him also saying: do the right thing, even when you don't feel like it; it might inconvenience you, but it could mean the world to someone else. This message came back to her after her father died and his funeral was held in the middle of the workweek. "The most human, powerful and humbling thing I've ever seen was a church at 3:00 on a Wednesday full of inconvenienced people who believe in going to a funeral," she said. (NPR, reported in The Christian Century.)
Visiting the funeral home, picking up your neighbor's mail, giving a panhandler $5, cleaning out the fridge in the office, taking your turn in the church nursery--none of these tasks are fulfilling or fun. (Well throwing out expired milk is a little thrilling for some of us.) But when we stop doing these things, when we stop doing our duty, the world slowly falls apart.
Duty and obligation are good words.
What do you need to do today?