Over the years I have had many conversations with colleagues at work about their goals in life.
I remember one man in particular who made it quite clear what he wanted. His goal was to build up a nice financial nest egg so that he could retire, relax, and enjoy life. As he saw it, the good life is “life on the beach”, or “life at the cottage”, or some other form of permanent vacation, and the purpose of work is to build up enough wealth so that we can spend the rest of our days doing exactly as we please, with no-one to answer to but ourselves.
More recently I had a conversation with another colleague. In addition to working as an IT consultant, she and her husband own and operate a small farm where they raise goats, beef cattle and horses. Marion and I like buying meat from her because we know it’s not laced with antibiotics and hormones. This colleague told me recently that she had considered giving up farming but she couldn’t do it, because she doesn’t want to live without a purpose. For her, farming is a way of life that embodies purposeful and therefore satisfying activity. She enjoys finding cost-effective and inventive ways of meeting the challenge of raising animals organically. Her dream isn’t “life on the beach”, it’s “life on the farm”. She does want to have sufficient freedom to be able to take a vacation with her husband every now and then (a challenge for many farmers) but she can’t stand living without a purpose.
Life on the beach – or on the farm? A permanent vacation – or a life of purposeful activity? Serving yourself, or serving others? Which would you choose?
I’d pick life on the farm any day.
Let me be clear. I love vacations. I know I need rest. It was great to go to Florida for a week last year, and Marion and I loved our holiday at a cottage on Drummond Island with children and grandchildren the year before. I thoroughly enjoy weekends with their (somewhat) more relaxed pace. But I can’t stand the thought of living without any purpose but to satisfy my own desires. That kind of life would kill me. The beach is great for a break from the farm, but give me the farm over the beach for a satisfying life that’s well-lived.
No, I’m not considering another career change, nor a change of location. I am now thoroughly and happily transplanted from my former life in rural Russell Township to my current life in inner-city Vanier, and I have no regrets about the change. Although I do have a small garden, I have no plans to take up farming. I know that I am exactly where God wants me to be.
But like my farming colleague, I don’t want to live without a purpose. And like her, I see myself as a type of farmer. I’m not raising hay, grain, goats and cattle. I’m tending people’s hearts. The farm isn’t mine, it’s God’s. But I am one of his sharecroppers. Other servants have planted the seed of His saving, lifegiving truth in many hearts, and my job is to tend and nurture the seeds that have sprouted into young, growing plants.
On God’s farm there are lots of jobs to be done. Some people do more planting than anything else. These are the ones who love telling complete strangers – everyone they can find – about Jesus. Others spend more of their time fertilizing and watering the crops. These are the ones who love to help others understand the word of God and how it applies to their life. Some people spend most of their time feeding and looking after the other workers. That’s just as important. There are other jobs as well. Like on most farms, everyone does a bit of everything at times, but some people specialize more in some areas than in others.
In my years of working on God’s farm I’ve planted seeds, and I’ve also watered and fertilized them. But what I love to do most is to make sure that the young plants can see the Son. That, to me, is what the ministry of worship and prayer is all about. Plants don’t grow if they can’t see the light. Believers need to be able to see the Son so that they can become like Him. God has an enemy who is constantly planting weeds in the midst of His good crops. Sometimes those weeds threaten to choke the life out of the crops that God’s servants have planted. Sometimes the weeds seem to get so thick that it’s hard to see the Son. When that happens, the ministry of worship and prayer has a wonderful way of clearing spaces in the undergrowth so that we can see the light of His face. In fact, the more we worship, the more the weeds seem to just disappear, and the crops of God’s planting begin to flourish and thrive and reproduce. It’s amazing.
All workers need rest. I’m glad that on God’s farm there are refreshing streams and green pastures where his servants can be renewed and restored. But I’m so glad that God has made me for fruitful labour in his fields.