Patty Kirk's Christian equation used to look like this: Duty + Guilt = Spiritual Value. But experience and maturity has taught her to look past that burdensome spiritual math to a new theorem: Desires + Joy = Pleasing God.
She posits this theory in her new book, The Easy Burden of Pleasing God (IVP, Mar.), one of the inaugural titles in the new IVP Crescendo line of books for women. Kirk offers readers a unique blend of personal stories, scriptural explication, and careful thought in a book that could free women (and men, too) from the long list of duties they feel God wants them to accomplish.
Kirk uses the story of her aging mother-in-law to describe the evolution of her thoughts on pleasing God. Mamaw lived in a house on her and her husband Kris's Oklahoma farm, at first a great help in raising their two daughters. But age and dementia had turned visits to Mamaw's house into dreaded duty. "I'd go down there to do my duty, but come away bitter," says Kirk.
She realized, however, that by reading her work-in-progress to Mamaw she could delight both her beloved mother-in-law and herself. Mamaw listened and felt loved; Kirk read and felt joy in making Mamaw happy.
"Those visits transformed the business of spending time with Mamaw into something wonderful, teaching me it was possible to turn what we perceive as duty into something we look forward to, that is rewarding and enjoyable," says Kirk.
The more she thought about faith and how the faithful tend to make their God-work a duty, the more she deepened her understanding of Jesus' words. Despite what we may think, following Jesus isn't meant to be a chore: He says in the book of Matthew, chapter 11, verse 30: "For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
Says Kirk, who teaches half-time at Brown University in Arkansas and writes half-time, "[Now] when I undertake to do anything of a spiritual nature, I set out to find it enjoyable. I select what I'm going to do on that basis. Even when it's something I have to do, I am determined to find enjoyment in it."