Driving through central Pennsylvania, I gaze with wonder at the work of Amish families on their farms. Through the warmth and convenience of my car, equipped with music and movies, I watch the dance of their laundry on lines between trees; the long pants kick up in the wind, and the crisp white shirts wave as we pass.
A farmer works his field by hand, tilling the soil with pleasure. Barn cats leap up around a little girl’s feet as she pushes her wheelbarrow through the family’s garden. A mother collects sticks for her fire. We have to slow our pace to give a horse and buggy room on the road.
How inconvenient this all is. How strange this work.
As I think about the labor of living in my own very convenient and very comfortable life, I’m suddenly aware of my stubborn heart. I want ease and comfort. I want the smoothest way out of work. But when I look back at my happiest days, the ones full of joy and peace, I realize those were days when I surrendered to the work.
I had a willing spirit. I submitted to tasks, to people, and to my circumstances with joy. I got up and worked the way a farmer works a field and wipes a brow. I worked the kind of work that makes you so hungry you eat with a different pleasure and so tired you relish sleep like it’s a precious gift.
Will my children know this kind of work in my culture?
The convenient and the comfortable, the lazy and the entertained life, may seem like pleasure, but it doesn’t satisfy the way work does.
Lord, give me a willing spirit to do this work. Let me labor hard and enjoy the tasks before me. Living with flair means I sweat and wipe my brow. I meet the tasks assigned with pleasure.
I want to be willing for my whole life. As the psalmist writes, “Lord grant me a willing spirit to sustain me.”