My husband recently observed that almost everything we are striving for in our home is, in one way or another, either creating – or sustaining – life. That’s our vision, our dream, our plan. We sow cabbages; then we wipe caterpillar eggs off them. We hatch out ducklings; then we feed them and muck them out. We bring children into the world; then we teach them to love.
The reality is that much of our daily toil is actually, quite simply, several dozen acts of embracing life.
Stirring the porridge, changing a nappy, listening to a child’s ideas, feeding the chickens, examining an injury, cleaning up a spillage, tending the greenhouse, reading a story, giving a cuddle, explaining arithmetic, cooking a meal, preventing the baby from pulling all the blueberries off the bush…. and on it goes. Even when we are earning money to pay the bills, hopefully we are enhancing the lives of others by teaching them a new skill.
This is not a limitless list! It’s just our experience of embracing life.
The reality is that to embrace life, you first must embrace death. Sounds just a bit crazy? Not too crazy. In fact that’s the reason that all this life-embracing got the bad rap of daily toil in the first place. It’s often hard work. It’s often a lot of sacrifice. Maybe there’s little to no time or energy left to read exciting novels, or go out to dinner or the theatre. Maybe there’s little to no money left for a luxury holiday or two each year, or for a shiny new car or designer heels. Slate me if you like, but I dare to say that these things – and a whole load of other things – are most certainly fun, but they do not bring life. (In actual fact, many times they bring debt, distraction and damaged feet – but that’s another story.)
Here’s a sound agricultural fact of life, and at the same time what I believe is the litmus test of a life-giving act:
“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.” ~ John 12:24
We humans are an incredibly creative, life-giving force; that’s one of the things that sets us apart from the rest of Creation. But surely every act of giving and embracing life first involves dying just a little? Personally I don’t find it easy to do this dying, and as a result I don’t know that I am all that good at it. But I do know that it has brought the greatest and purest joy. And I know that every day we look around our home and garden at all the smiles and tears and mess and noise, and we see much life. Some of it will be eaten at dinnertime, some of it will live on for decades to come.
Although you must sacrifice for it – in ways I cannot know – even so, I truly hope you will embrace life.
“He is no fool who gives up that which he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” ~ Jim Elliot