In this culture it seems that the goal of work is the rest that follows. The quest of the typical working soul seems to exert the least amount of energy to reach the point as quickly as he can to where he can cease from labor and begin to enjoy his day.
We have placed our emphasis on the wrong thing. The goal of our day is not to “enjoy it”; the goal is to bring glory to God’s name in the very all of our day. Every moment of our day is a grand opportunity to place God first. Sadly, however, we strive for rest and seek after fun and diversion when we should be valuing the limited time handed to us on this lease called our life and apply ourselves full measure to the task at hand.
Each day seems inherent with its pull towards diversions. Yes, times of rest and relaxation are needed for health, but, is just as needed is full-effort labor. As a culture, our priorities are out of order. As is necessary for our constitution, we are to take a break from our strenuous daily tasks, but I submit to you our break is to be found by changing gears and exerting ourselves in a different, yet still productive, direction.
Recreation is absolutely necessary. Neither body nor mind can be strained to its utmost tension for a long time without permanent injury. -William Thayer
Our idea today of “recreation” is very different from what those in our country’s recent past thought of it as. Thayer gives us a great example in his book, Gaining Favor with God and Man.
When the late William E. Dodge began business in New York City, he found his recreation out of business hours in the alleys and slums of the metropolis, caring for poor boys. He fed and clothed them, and preached the gospel to them in his humble way. He made the lives of many of them easier and better at the same time that he sought recreation for his exhausted powers.”
One consecrated, diligent person can make quite a difference in their world; even just in the after-hours of their “regular job.”
Productive use of our time, obstacles to overcome, and battles against self to be fought all serve a valuable purpose in our soul-development. Work is to be embraced, sought after, and fought through. Solomon was given wisdom, wealth and the privilege of reigning during a promised era of peace. He spent his life amassing wealth beyond our comprehension. His life of “no tension” ultimately brought about a lax attitude toward sin and toward God. He defiled the memory of his life by his poor ending. Perhaps his life of ease left him with too much freedom that developed his independence from God rather than experiencing the necessary tension that comes from troubles and trials that draw one closer to and in greater dependence upon God.
As parents (the quintessential never-ending-job) we face a similar difficulty with maintaining the proper tension between child-training (equipping) and child-enabling (entitlement training). As wenaturally seek to shirk work and run towards pleasure, so to our children follow our sin-bent lead. Our daily work verses our daily rest and recreation – child training or child enabling? These are two areas of our Christian life that must be examined. Do we ourselves see the true value in labor? Are we giving our children the opportunity to learn this value? Do we embrace the task at hand and do so heartily as unto the Lord? Do we require this of our children? Why isn’t there a beautiful harmony between what I must do today and what I want to do today? Could the discord be found in our fundamental attitude toward work?
The youth entitlement philosophy is running rampant within our culture. It is currently of epidemic proportions and we mothers, I fear, are the main culprits. We enable our children. We “help” them into believing that they can do nothing for themselves. If they try, we fix it; so they figure, “Why try?”
With the greatest of intentions and in the name of love, we have developed a tendency to hover, race in to save, protect from failure, arrange for success, manipulate, overprotect, and enable our kids. (Kay Wyma, Cleaning House: a Mom’s Twelve Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement. *I highly recommend this book.)
This popular philosophy of child rearing in no way resembles how God, our Father, tends to us. Life is work; and work is life; life in its fullest vitality, in its most beneficial sense. The sooner we instruct our children in this truth the better. And our instruction must in part come in the form of demonstration. I came across a thought in my reading that was referring to the teaching of Christian truths,
No one can teach in the moral and spiritual realm with greatest effectiveness that which he does not himself believe with depth of conviction. You cannot kindle another by rote. That which does not greatly move you will scarcely greatly move another through you. This simply means that our effective teaching is necessarily confined to what is vitally real to us – to our real inner creed. For just this reason ‘complete and systematic’ presentation of religious subjects often contains much that is mere filling. Only those parts have any kindling power that have the fire of personal conviction in them. (Letters to Sunday School Teachers, H. C. King, 1906)
What Christ has gone through Himself and that which He knows as utter truth is that which He seeks to teach us. In our lives there is a necessary tension, a God-ordained harmony between our suffering and our successes; between our pain and our pleasure. This tension was magnificently displayed in the life of Christ.
God’s purpose is to shape us, mold us and make us after the image of Jesus Christ. This task demands the blazing hot furnace of His specific plan for our life. We know that all we experience here is woven together that we might know Him, the seeming good and the seeming bad. Tension producing trials are necessary for strength in the Christian soul. They are that which put “iron in the soul”. Work is a means by which God challenges not only our body, but our character. And we as mothers are missing a vital area of child training if we neglect to give them good, hard, demanding work to accomplish.
Work is a part of our entire life: body, spirit, and mind. Each and every area of our life takes real work to keep it toned and fit. The true walk with God comes through a true working of God in us as we willingly submit ourselves to work with Him. I’ll quote from a book I recently found,
It is equally important for us to remember, if the spiritual life is to be real to us, that (it) is not a life of the imitation or repetition of the experiences of others…if the spiritual world is to have the fullest reality for us…we must have some experience in the spiritual that is genuinely our own, not a hollow echo of something we have heard from others. This is not easy. Men naturally shrink from it. It is far easier to satisfy oneself with a very shallow dealing with the problem of our life, and then to catch up the traditional language of religious experience from others. (King, 1906)
God is gracious to give us many lessons in the natural things around us. Music comes forth from the tension in the strings. Four strings tuned with particular tautness and played upon by a musician create beautiful sounds. Sanctification, or the process of tuning, is going to happen. How do I allow God to conform me into the image of Christ? Unlike an inanimate, stringed instrument, I can choose whether or not I will yield to God’s working in my life. Tuning can be a daily event; it needs often to be repeated, for without proper tuning the instrument is of no use. Humility keeps us in tune, accepting whatever might be played upon us. A good attitude towards work keeps us treading in places where lessons may be taught and willingly learned.
1. Expect the tension of trials and difficulties in life; it is necessary and it is good.
2. Expect to be tuned often, for you are a vessel and instrument of the living God.
3. Keep your children busy with real-life, hard tasks; let them struggle and let them fail. It’s good for them. And as you, dear mother, are busy with your real-life, hard tasks, sing God’s praises aloud for all that He allows in your day.
As seasons of life change, Elizabeth happily remains desperately dependent upon her God. Two of her four children have now branched off to begin their own families. She is a homeschooling veteran and a faithful wife of almost 30 years.