Tag Archives: work

Embrace the Pigness of the Pig

This summer, Penny and I visited Polyface Farms, the home base of Joel Salatin, beyond-organic farmer to the stars. Alright, while Salatin might not do much hobnobbing with Hollywood A-listers, he has been in a good selection of movies. I’m convinced that there’s a law prohibiting anyone from producing a food- or agriculture-related documentary without inserting at least one snippet of Joel.

After leaving the farm that day, I grieved for part of my drive back into Staunton, Virginia, the city where we were staying. You see, the farm’s shop did not have any t-shirts reading “The marvelous pigness of pigs” in my size. The shopkeeper assured us that they’d be getting those in eventually, but we were heading home before that.

Only on the way home, as we made a fourteen-hour expedition from Staunton to our house, did I realize–thanks to Penny’s handy use of Google and decent cell reception in West Virginia–that my coveted t-shirt actually reflected the title of Joel’s latest book: The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs: Respecting and Caring for All God’s Creation.

Before reaching home, I had ordered a copy of the tome. Penny followed suit, requesting it from our library. We’ve been reading through it over the past several weeks.

After writing and speaking for decades as a voice for sustainable agriculture and clean foods, Salatin with this book has “come out” as a Christian. Honestly, I don’t think many people who had encountered him were terribly surprised, but in that book’s pages, he lays out the theological underpinnings for his agricultural practices.

Although I plan to take up some, if not all, of the individual chapters in days to come, I thought it would make sense to consider my own “pigness” or the pigness of my students. Do you have “theological underpinnings” for your profession? I ask, because I’m not entirely sure that I have them for my primary work as a college English teacher. Certainly I have not worked out that theology and its implications on day-to-day, semester-to-semester life as thoroughly as Salatin has in this book.

So your homework assignment, as you wait for the book to arrive, is to consider what it means to be a Christian car mechanic, HVAC technician, lawyer, financial planner, gym employee, banker, or whatever it is that you do with your time. Whether you enjoy the pigness of some bacon at the same time is entirely your own affair.

 

Stay in Bed and Avoid Problems: Ecclesiastes 10:8-9

Whoever digs a pit may fall into it;

    whoever breaks through a wall may be bitten by a snake.
Whoever quarries stones may be injured by them;
    whoever splits logs may be endangered by them.—Ecclesiastes 10:8-9
As I sit here this morning, taking a bit of slow start to the day, I have time to reflect on various things. It is 7:41. I didn’t get up at 6:00 or even at 7:00 today. Since I didn’t have to go to work and Olivia didn’t have to go to work, there was no rush. There’s been rain falling gently for the last 90 minutes or so, so my mind said, “Stay in bed and avoid problems.”
Life’s problems can be best avoided, I think, by doing nothing. Think about it. If I never mow my grass, then I will never risk injuring myself with the lawnmower. If I don’t drive anywhere, then I cannot get into an automobile accident. If I don’t brush my teeth, there’s no chance of me choking on toothpaste. I could go on.
In the verses quoted here, Solomon gives four examples of ways that work can seem to be foolishness. Is this to be read as saying that work is folly? I’m not going to dig a hole, because I might fall into it. Or is he simply pointing out that every worthwhile thing has its attendant dangers?
Life has its risks. If I go through life without risk, then it is really not life. I wrote recently about Dean Potter, a famous climber who died in a BASE jumping accident. I don’t have a lot of sympathy for people who risk their necks foolishly, but is such risk really worse than risking your life by not living it? Would you rather have your life cut short when you’re doing something or to have your life cut short because you spent it sitting on the couch watching reruns of MASH?
Throughout Ecclesiastes, you run into that word ‘meaningless.’ I try to make sense of that word by substituting “What’s up with that?”
Throughout this chapter and throughout life, we have a series of examples of things that don’t make a great deal of sense. But our job is not really to make sense of life and all of its details. If you cut stones you might get hurt by them. What’s up with that? No, it doesn’t seem fair. It doesn’t really make sense, but that’s just the way life is. Life under the sun doesn’t always make  sense, but that’s okay. We can’t hold out for sense. Instead, we just need to accept the risk. Then enjoy our food and drink and work. That’s the fate of man under the sun.

The Work of Our Hands

working hands“And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away.” Surely Jesus’ admonition in Matthew 5:30 is meant as hyperbole. Still I must confess that my hands (and the rest of my body) can get me into a great deal of trouble.

Why did God save you from the sins of your flesh only to leave you inhabiting that flesh for the rest of your life, abandoning you, so it would seem, to an endless parade of temptations and inevitable failures? That’s a curious question, one of those when-I-get-to-heaven-I’m-gonna-ask sort of questions.

While I don’t have an absolute answer for that question, I do assume that God did this not by oversight but on purpose. The question we can answer is how to live in that flesh. Do I succumb to gluttony or pride when I consider my body? Do I invest too much attention into my work or too little, yielding to sloth? Marshall Segal has written persuasively on how we are to properly navigate this problem (although the title of his essay seems misleading to me).

Our tendency toward idolatry in our work is no indictment against work (just like pornography is no indictment against sex (in the context of marriage), and drunk driving is no indictment against the automobile). Even before sin entered into the world, God wanted us to work (Genesis 2:15). In fact, he made us to work (Psalm 8:6). It was woven into the goodness of God’s perfect creation. All work is God’s, and it serves as a brilliant shadow of his own sovereign, just, creative, and sustaining work (Hebrews 1:10Psalm 143:5).

It’s so easy to become enamored with the work that these hands can do. It’s so easy to lapse into idolatry. Yet it’s just as easy to fold my hands (and all the rest of my flesh) and ignore it. While I cannot answer with certainly why God saved me from my flesh and then left me in it, I can discern directions in how I am to live out those flesh-bound years. Perhaps that’s enough.

Better Homes and Hovels (Hebrews 4:8)

For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. (Hebrews 4:8)

Three years ago, I moved in at the top of Shamayim Hill, living for the first time in my life, in the sort of place that I’d always dreamed of. After the documents were all signed, somebody–I can’t remember who–handed me the keys and congratulated me on my new home. It was a couple of days later that we actually managed to move in.

Contrary to the “lifestyle” and home improvement ads that we see on TV, life upon coming in to our new home did not consist of shady dinners on the back patio and barefoot romps across painfully green grass.

Instead, we had to eradicate half of the wasps in the western hemisphere and remove somebody else’s junk. One evening, as I walked in to the house from a long day’s efforts, I stopped and thought, “I have enough work to last me until…” I paused and then realized that the work would last forever.

When Joshua stopped the flow of the Jordan River and cleared the way for the people of Israel to enter the Promised Land, he did not take them to a land of ease. Yes, they took possession of orchards they did not plant, but the cultivation of those orchards fell to the new owners. The people of Israel did not enter into God’s rest any more than I entered into a life of rest upon moving here.

My rest will not come from any of the booths at the home show or the promises of glossy TV ads. My rest will not come from some mythical end to all my labors. My rest comes in midst of my labors as I adhere to the God who created me and emulate the Messiah who provided my justification.