Establish the work of our hands

The following is an excerpt from Wendell Berry's book Bringing it to the Table - On Farming and Food.
It got my wheels turning about the value of work / the transience of life / Psalm 90

With industrialization has come a general depreciation of work. As the price of work has gone up, the value of it has gone down, until it is now so depressed that people simply do not want to do it anymore. We can say without exaggeration that the present national ambition of the United States is unemployment. People live for quitting time, for weekends, for vacations, and for retirement; moreover, this ambition seems to be classless, as true in the executive suites as on the assembly lines. One works not because one loves to do it, but only to be able to quit - a condition that a saner time would regard as infernal, a condemnation. This is explained, of course, by the dullness of the work, by the loss of responsibility for, or credit for, or knowledge of the thing made. What can be the status of the working small farmer in a nation whose motto is a sigh of relief: "Thank God it's Friday"?

But there is an even more important consequence: By the dismemberment of work, by the degradation of our minds as worker, we are denied our highest calling, for, as Gill says, "every man is called to give love to the work of his hands. Every man is called to be an artist." The small family farm is one of the last places - they are getting rarer every day - where men and women (and girls and boys, too) can answer that call to be an artist, to learn to give love to the work of their hands. It is one of the last places where the maker - and some farmers still do talk about "making the crops" - is responsible, from start to finish, for the thing made. This certainly is a spiritual value, but it is not for that reason an impractical or uneconomic one. In fact, from the exercise of this responsibility, this giving of love to the work of the hands, the farmer, the farm, the consumer, and the nation all stand to gain in the most practical ways: They gain the means of life, the goodness of food, and the longevity and dependability of the sources of food, both natural and cultural. The proper answer to the spiritual calling becomes, in turn, the proper fulfillment of physical need.


A Steady Pace

I've been thinking a lot lately about the pace of my life and the lives of those around me - asking the question, "What is God-honoring and healthy? I imagine that there is no blanket response to that question - we have all been blessed with different energy levels and capabilities. Yet within Christian circles (at least the ones I have passed through) we seem to honor those who "do, do, do." I read a few biographies of the men and women who led the turn of the century revival movements - night and day they served, traveled, spoke - we read about them waking up before the sun in order to pray and study God's Word. They are framed as heros of the faith, and the Holy Spirit certainly empowered the work of their hands. Yet many sacrificed their health as well as their family life for the sake of living and serving at such an incredible pace.

I often feel the pressure of this lifestyle. I wholeheartedly don't desire it. I don't think that God calls us to a life of 'panting feverishness.' I trust that He can sustain some to live at a quick pace with complete peace, and even that He could do this for me. Nonetheless, scripture continually reminds us that we are limited, transient beings - like the flower of the field we are here one day and gone the next, the morning dew that is quickly dried up, a vapor in the wind. The success of God's work in establishing his kingdom does not hinge on my struggling and striving - yet He invites me in to labor; to labor in the strength He supplies.

I feel the weight of this in the ministry I'm currently serving with - I could literally work 24/7 and still have things to do. It requires a conscious choice to stop, and in faith to entrust what is left undone to the Father. As a single person, I sometimes believe the lie that I can or should "go, go, go." I secretly envy those who are married and/or have children and have a 'legitimate' reason for setting boundaries. Even as the thought comes to mind, I know its false. I have some friends who have made intentional choices to limit their commitments in order to love God and love people well. I'm encouraged by them; reminded that it is possible; and challenged to affirm that a well-invested day does not necessarily involve rushing from one thing to the next.

The Lord knows our frame; He knows that we are dust; He created us as a limited beings and called it good. May we live in line with his good intentions.

This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: "In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength." Isaiah 30:15