Tuesday, February 9, 2010
. . . and find satisfaction in his work.
Those photos are snapshots of a different world. A world without the "conveniences" of today, yet a world where things were NOT taken for granted or thrown away. Most likely, it was this way because of all the elbow grease and effort that went into EVERY TASK.
For the first several years after we bought our house and property I really struggled with the clash of what my life was becoming and what I had believed it would be like. I had grown up envisioning my middle class life as being the equivilent to the life of Cinderella. You know, I had to dust and vacuum and do laundry and dishes (with machines). I dreamt of my husband being my prince who would whisk me away to a life of ease and the Happily Ever After.
THEN, he began sharing with me his desires for a more old-fashioned agricultural life. After that he began changing our property and our lives into that dream. A life where: we grow much of what we eat; we adjust to morning household temperatures of 50; we have outdoor chores despite the weather; warmth depends upon heavy wood being lugged into the house and fires have to be started in advance of the warmth being felt; goats were milked and the milk was ACTUALLY consumed; raw unprocessed food was bought in bulk; flour is ground and oats are rolled with the help of little hands at home; chickens are processed by husband and wife each having their own job; the freezer is full of deer, goat, rabbit and lamb meat; and the harvest is not just good or bad luck but affects our menu for the rest of the year.
I didn't want to learn how to cook meat rabbit. I didn't want to be cold in my own house. I didn't want to lug in wood. I still don't like to weed! I wanted chickens in pretty little plastic packages already deboned. I wanted convenience and ease. I wanted to be "like everyone else."
Then my husband, who knows my weakness for narratives and biographies, started sharing stories of what life was like in the 1930's and 1940's. I began to fall in love with these hard working folks. I began to see myself for what I was: a spoiled child of the 1980's and 1990's. I began to marvel at how incredibly strong those folks had to have been in EVERY sense of the word "strong". I began to think of them as super human beings of whom's genes surely had to have weakened as children and grandchildren were born. It had to be lack of the right genetics that so few around me had this ability to do the hard admirable work of the black and white photo generation.
. . . . and then the clothesline happened to me. The ultimate practical goal of the clothesline is for me to dry clothes on the line all the days that they won't freeze (or get drenched by rain when it's warmer). I usually start a few months later than this and stop a month or so early. Over those early years I learned clothesline techniques by trial and error that greatly helped me become more efficient in hanging clothing while standing on a hillside trying to keep the baby from eating grass and sticks.
A few years back now, while in the middle of hanging my clothing, a deep sense of peace overtook me. A contentment. An acceptance. A realization that work is empowering and draws me closer to HE who created every single thing that I could possibly need to survive. I realized that I don't need the packaging to tell me how to cook (although this task took many bad experiments before I was successful). I didn't need someone to cut my chicken apart for me. In fact if anyone has eaten a farm hen you realize that you also don't need half of the meat that is found on one of those store bought hens, afterall meat should be a flavoring and not the main course. I realized the connection we had to our food was comforting, despite the long hours of work it often involved. I save fuel, save electricity, save money by being creative. By having to work at everything I realized that conservation is more easily accepted.
That moment was a sigh of relief. A realization that all these things my husband was dreaming of and was changing around me were actually good, even when they were really hard. And when I say really hard I mean full of sweat and many, many tears. They were good even when they made me work harder than I had EVER worked before in my life.
It was at this moment that Ecclesiastes 2:24 made sense to me in the most profound way. I realized this verse did NOT say "Eat, drink and be merry" but instead spoke to God's perfect provision and the contentment we have when we accept that provision.
A man can do nothing better than to eat, drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment.
This verse doesn't say "eat, drink and find satisfaction in our toys" or "in our conveniences" or "in our modern technology" or "in our own knowledge and power." This verse boils down to the fact that our mere existance is because of the hand of God. Our food, our drink, our joy, our existance are all dependant upon our God. Even those tasks that we just writhe in anger as we do them because we detest them SO MUCH..... are given to us by Him.
Work. Work is very, very hard for most of us Americans who barely have to move in order to make a living. Work takes a VERY LONG time to adjust to when you grow up with meals provided for you from boxes and cans, when you have a car from the moment you have a learner's permit, when everything you have is quickly bought and quickly tossed aside once it no longer suits your fancy.
Work. Wrapping one's head around the benefits found in grinding one's own flour, to gutting one's own chicken, to canning one's tomatoes into sauce is tough work. So much of what I needed to learn and change about the daily routines in my new life involved good, hard work. Yet Ecclesiastes 2:24 tells me that I ought to find enjoyment in my work because it, along with my food and my drink--- both of which often require my work-- is from the hand of God. How dare I then grumble? How I dare I complain? The verse tells us: without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? Without God and the work and the provision he gives me, I will find no joy.
How lucky I am to know, acknowledge and find satisfaction in the WORK the hand of God has provided for me. How lucky I am to know that contentment is accepting the work and the food and drink that come from that hand. How lucky I am to know Ecclesiastes 2 24 in it's depths. How lucky I am, indeed.
at 11:43 PM