Sunday, August 16, 2009

Warms Me Thrice

It is said that firewood warms you twice, when you burn it of course, but also the "warm work" of cutting, splitting and stacking it. For me, in the pastoral ministry, there is the great reward of seeing lives transformed today by the Gospel, and the greater knowledge of lives won for God eternally. And yet, a human desire is to see results from work, and so the few days a year when I can see such results from physical work are gratifying. Last week we were visiting the Authoress' parents in the Canadian backwoods -- and in addition to picking raspberries and making jam, the main task of the week was "getting the wood in". This is the fuel for winter heat and, importantly, for maple sugar making. Our neighbour Harvey is a forester who splits most of the hardwood for us, but thankfully leaves about 5% unsplit. So I need to wield the heavy splitting axe and do it the old fashioned way.

Two weeks ago we moved apartments in Manhattan; and while it is good to be in the new place, and we are thankful for it, still it was simply moving things from one place to the other. In the grand scheme of things, much work is moving things from one place to another (money, information, etc.), and so building something or changing something dead, dangerous and rotting into something useful (like a tree that needs to come down before it falls on something or someone) is good.

The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing,
while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.

Proverbs 13:4 would seem to indicate that there are indeed spiritual benefits of work, work which yet bears the curse of sin. "Soul" here can mean "self" but usually the word used would be "the man" (or "the person"), and so "the soul" is probably a reference to the interior self, whole self, or mind. Instead of referring only to the material rewards of labor, the wisdom of Proverbs is that godly urges, when satisfied, bring a richness to the soul. The Bible turns me right back to an awareness that every urge is tainted in some way, yet God in his kindness gives the reward from labor, material and spiritual. The parable of the workers in the vineyard is a good example of how "it's not fair" pretty much shows how a preoccupied self-interest invades and spoils.

Anyway, for me, I am thrice warmed by firewood, in the burning, the gathering, and the spiritual satisfaction of labour completed, with the awareness of strength for the work, the beauty of the setting, and in time, maple syrup on pancakes!

What do you think of your work -- either the everyday sort, or the occasional work outside if you don't work with your hands normally?

video link: slanted a bit more towards the curse rather than blessing of work!