Obligation: something by which a person is bound or obliged to do certain things, and which arises out of a sense of duty or results from custom, law.
Devotion: profound dedication; consecration; earnest attachment to a cause, person.
You are obligated to water, obligated to weed, obligated to care for, obligated to let it leave. And the hours you spent on you knees seem wasted at the end of the season when the plants bow down to the first cold breath whispering "sleep now." They tuck themselves again under the dirt, forgetting they were ever alive. Then the Spirit calls us to love them, not just serve them, and these "obligations" suddenly tremble in a profound and consecrating moment of awakening even as you watch them go.
When all seems but frozen dust, you remember, and you lift the lid of the deep freeze, let it drop and thunk with a bag of frozen green beans in one hand, and you think you've beaten death. (Only One could do that.) Here it is. Cryogenics for supper. But you haven't done anything at all. You've only postponed the inevitable. You will run out. And you'll refuse to eat the canned kind because they are beyond dead, a tortured harvest.
And this is how life seems sometimes, a tortured harvest, and I swing with a guilty sense of dread into "obligations" when I yearn and spit and spoil because every inch of me yearns to live in devotion, which is as different from obligation as love is from duty. We give it freely. We give it because it feels graceful and easy and right, and the object of that devotion thrives because of it. The object of obligation wilts guilty, eyes lowered in the corner crying, "I'm so sorry to have bothered you."
I have heard all the lies of late that say life is simply made of obligations. And when I hear this voice, something real and vibrant in me crouches down, a silent tiger, and I can't spell or think or write until it pounces on every motion and breath and word and tear and sound I make so that they belong to something beyond my own self-important activity and ignite into a burning joy that has lived before me and will live through me and continue to live when I am gone.
Little, devoted link. Don't let go.