After waiting my whole life to fill out a wedding registry, I find myself plodding toward the accumulation of eventual stuff. My fiance reminds me it actually serves others for me to make a virtual wish list for our life together. I roll my eyes and add another serving platter to the pile of stuff.
One of the contentions has not been simply the accumulation of stuff, but the accumulation of stuff intended to make our lives easier. A $200 electric mixer? An electric can-opener? A doohicky-thingamajiggy? From my vantage point all of that just creates more clutter, I’m just as happy to stir bread dough by hand and put a little elbow grease into the opening of my cans.
It has me thinking, though, not only of the differences between men and women, but the differences between he and I specifically. I’m three-quarters down the road less traveled while he’s still back at the fork with twenty-five tour guides and a checklist of pros and cons of both paths. He wants to outsource tasks so he can spent his time in other ways; I want to google how-tos-for-dummies until I can wrench my way through my newest hair-brained scheme (which I usually fail). He wants the electric mixer; I want the wooden spoon and bowl.
It is the process, I told him recently, I enjoy the process of the work, task, or journey. But I’m afraid there’s more to it, if I’m honest, and it’s an ugly confession of my own.
Paul admonished the Thessalonians to “Live a quiet life…and work with your hands,” and the oldest American ethos has resurrected itself in like form. In a down economy, there’s been an upside: the aspiration for young people to take the verse to heart (whether they’re bible folks or not). Woodworking, crafting, printing, brewing, and cooking—whatever passion they’re following, they’re following it back to its roots. The American Spirit has gotten in the bloodstream of millennials and they’re putting their hand to the proverbial plow. Pinterest provides a visual smorgasbord of projects just waiting for someone to learn how to do them.
However, I wonder if we’ve ascribed a new kind legalism to work? I know I have. In our search for authenticity and origin, we’ve attributed a moralism to the work itself. It is not inherently more moral to stir by hand or by machine. In fact, for our ancestors who worked from sunup to sundown, a machine was a welcome interruption in a difficult life, freeing up their hands for work of a more lasting value.
An article on The New York Times, Outsource Your Way to Success is making the rounds today and I confess, I scoffed at the title alone (Road less traveled, remember?). But as I read through I could see the benefits of outsourcing your life, using the machine to do what you do not want to make time for.
Whether we choose to stir by hand or by mixer, we’re using time and we’ve only got 24 hours a day of it. If you use the mixer, or outsource your work, what are you doing with those spare minutes you’ve saved? And, if you stir by hand or spend endless hours googling how-tos, what have you kept yourself from doing?
Make no mistake, the Kingdom of God is at hand and He cares not whether we look busy, but that we are busy with the stuff of Heaven. The Christian cannot outsource their life, nor should they attach virtue to simplicity for simplicity’s sake—we all walk a fine line when we press our hands and hearts close to the Holy Spirit and do with our minutes as He says to do.
We all have just one life to answer for and I don’t mean to answer for yours, nor will I answer for my fiance’s, but I will answer for mine.
The question I will ask is if I’m being a good and faithful servant to Christ alone as I work with my hands, turn on a machine, learn a new skill, or pay for services rendered.