To focus on technique is like cramming your way through school. You sometimes get by, perhaps even get good grades, but if you don’t pay the price day in and day out, you never achieve true mastery of the subjects you study or develop an educated mind.
Did you ever consider how ridiculous it would be to try to cram on a farm — to forget to plant in the spring, play all summer and then cram in the fall to bring in the harvest?
• Stephen Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
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Life is the farm. Life is not school.
This is one of the most important “wisdom” lessons I have learned in my life (though it is stretching almost beyond credulity to say I’ve “learned” it).
I was a crammer in school. I waited until the last minute, pulled an all-nighter, dumped all the information into my head ’til it was fairly bursting, went to the test that morning and poured it all out again on paper.
Did well in school.
However, I had absolutely no idea what to do once I became a young pastor. Well, Sunday was easy. (Not saying it was good, just easy.) Put together a talk, pull a service together, officiate, greet.
But what was hard was Monday through Saturday. The life of a pastor. A life of study. A life of prayer. A life of paying attention to myself and my parishioners in daily life.
Sundays are important — celebrative and essential. The first day defines and energizes our lives by means of our Lord’s resurrection and gives a resurrection shape to the week. But the six days between Sundays are just as important, if not so celebrative, for they are the days to which the resurrection shape is given. Since most pastoral work takes place on the six days, an equivalent attention must be given to them, practicing the art of prayer in the middle of the traffic.
• Eugene Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor
Sunday was like being in school. Cram, perform, go home.
Monday through Saturday was life on the farm. Hard work. Attention. Preparation. Patience. Dealing with unforeseen problems. Staying ahead of the weeds and pests. Watering. Cultivating. Praying. Waiting. No days off ’til long after harvest.
Life is difficult.
This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult — once we truly understand and accept it — then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.
• M. Scott Peck, The Road Less Traveled
Every good and worthwhile thing in life is like the farm, not school. Even school, when done right, is the farm.
Friendship, marriage, raising children, vocation, neighborliness, responsible citizenship. Character.
Frankly, it’s always sounded like a lot of work to me, and since my sin of choice is acedia, I have had to find theological justification for avoiding or trying to find shortcuts in that work.
Thank God I’m a Protestant! What could be more convenient than a tradition that downplays good works and encourages faith alone?
So I’ve been a “grace” Christian. Lots of good things there that I wouldn’t trade, but I’m looking at the shadow side of it today. Such has been my immaturity and foolishness so often that I’ve thought there is no grace or faith (at least not faith alone) on the farm. It all looks like “works” to me, with a nod to how much, in the end, we depend on the weather.
I’m a fool.
The same Jesus who said to me,
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest”
said in the very next breath,
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me…” (Matt. 11:28-29).
The very One who called me away from burdensome works into a place of “rest” defined that by saying, “Come to me, come work on my farm. Let me teach you a better kind of work — a work in which you will find rest.”
So I guess it never has been about work vs. no work, works vs. faith, effort vs. grace, labor vs. rest.
It is about work which is rest. Which brings rest.
Because it’s done with Jesus. Because it involves entering a new kind of life with him where all the rules change: He gives us rest from our works and then gives us rest in his works.
Now that’s a farm on which I want to work with all my heart and soul and mind and strength.