The Deceit of Duty

Company is coming, or in more dire circumstances, already here. We feel compelled to do all the things that must be done: cleaning the house, straightening the mess, turning disorder into neatness. And of course, there’s all the food to be prepared. After that, all the dishes to be cleaned. Before they’re even dry, the cycle starts again.

In the madness of all that must be done, we’re overcome by duty. Family and friends come too seldom and everything must be perfect. In the wilting aftermath of all that perfection, we realize we barely had time to say hello and goodbye. “How was your visit?” others ask and we realize, “There wasn’t one.”

I must admit a bit of hypocrisy here. I certainly like to eat on a regular basis and I very much like sleeping on clean sheets in neat space. I presume similar preferences among my guests. Add to that generationally embedded notions of proper hospitality and provision. That impact is certainly not lessened by lingering notions of family member role and gender identity.

I don’t know that things have changed a lot in regard to that over the past couple of millennia. I remember a story from a land long ago and far away of two sisters who had company. While one of them toiled dutifully in the kitchen, the other sat and listened to their guest as he spoke with others. Eventually the one sister had stood all she could stand and demanded that the other one be reprimanded and sent to work with her.

Instead, Jesus said that the one who chose to spend time with him had made the better choice.

It’s a tricky thing, I suppose, and one that could pretty easily go in the wrong direction or be carried to extreme. But we should at least consider the possibility that there may be times when doing what so obviously seems to be needed might not be the best use of our time. If ordering pizza lets us enjoy a rare visit more, then let’s order pizza. And let’s eat it off of paper plates.

Sometimes less of duty might actually be more loving and hospitable, which is sort of the real purpose of visits with loved ones.

H. Arnett

About Doc Arnett

Native of southwestern Kentucky currently living in Ark City, Kansas, with my wife of twenty-nine years, Randa. We have, between us, eight children and twenty-eight grandkids. We enjoy singing, worship, remodeling and travel.
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