The Distractions of Duty

For the past few weeks I've been awash in distractions, at times to the point of feeling completely overwhelmed. My life seems ragged and frayed - I can't quite keep up. I'm chasing order and peace but sense the need for more than 24 hours each day just to stay above the water line. I'm struggling with and against the distractions of duty that sap my physical and mental energy and create a wedge in my spiritual equilibrium. I'm off balance - I can't quite get a toehold on the rhythm of life. I'd welcome the leisure of some mindless time just to clean the house...

Intellectually I know the cause - the major adjustment of moving to a new place with a different lifestyle coupled with the daily care of an aging parent with Alzheimer's disease. I feel like I'm running in neutral, going neither forward nor backward. I'm distracted by the relentless demands of duty - every day.

When we grieve often we're so focused on the distractions of duty - the care of our children, understanding our business, making time-sensitive decisions - we neglect the self-care of grief. We can delay our grief, we can defer it for a while, but grief will not be denied. Grief is very patient. It waits until we find the undistracted time and emotional space to look inward and express our feelings - to cry, to weep, to be sad. We honor the memory of the one we grieve when we acknowledge our loneliness and own the depth of our love.

How do we access our personal place of deep grief when we're distracted by duty and life going on all around us? We put down the phone, turn off the radio, tune out social media, and listen to what silence has to say to us - at home, in the car, at work, in a crowded subway. We have within our soul and spirit the innate capacity to find a rarified zone for personal reflection and introspection at any place and in any circumstance.

Another way we do this is to ask for help and receive it gratefully, especially when it's a real source of relief. We're not super human - sometimes we simply can't do everything ourselves. Duty is a harsh, unforgiving taskmaster that regiments our lives and always demands more and more. To reconcile our experience of death to life, at some time we must retreat unto ourselves and be still. We need quiet to think and sort out our feelings. When others want to help us – and really mean it - for a while we can delegate our duties and receive their ministry to us. Their help offers us the priceless gifts of solitude and silence. According to Henri Nouwen, “Solitude, where we absent ourselves from the myriad voices that tell us otherwise, helps us hear again that voice of love.” 

When we find respite from the distractions of duty, our spirit better hears the voice of God speaking to us through the Holy Spirit to comfort and restore us. In the exquisite quiet of spiritual calm we experience the peace “that surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7 NRSV). 

In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.

Isaiah 30:15 NKJV

Keep me this day, O God, in the focus of your grace. Amen.


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