Work with Your Hands

I don’t mind confessing that my hands hurt. This morning, I spent several hours trying to make some semblance of order in my mother’s disaster of a backyard. Then, after a trip to Costco, we did a couple of tasks in the garden. First, we weighed the eight rabbits that we bought this week. One of the beasts drew blood as I held it for a close and rather personal inspection. That rabbit, which we affectionately dubbed #4, is female if you’re curious.

Having finished the warmup acts, Penny and I attacked the main event. She wants to set out her tomato plants tomorrow and she wasn’t happy with the support system that we had installed. The new arrangement involved pulling up ten t-posts and re-setting eight of them. Then we arched three cow panels, sixteen-foot-long grids of heavy welded wire and attempted to wire them to the posts. The idea seems fairly simple. It turned out rather complicated, and I’m pretty sure that our procedure was not the most efficient we could have followed.

Now my back aches from pounding in posts and my fingers ache from twisting wire. I also smell a little ripe as the day is warm. And did I mention that I was wounded in action trying to handle a rabbit?

It is at moments like this that I understand why both of my grandfathers, born toward the end of the 19th century, made their way from the farming that had supported their ancestors back into the mists of history and toward anything else. These men, when they were on the farm, would have laughed at my day as a light load.

So why would I, a person who doesn’t have to do heavy lifting outside, choose to encounter these chores. I understand that lots of well educated people piddle in the garden, but most of them don’t wrestle with cow panels. They wrestle with hosta bulbs.

There’s something to be said for being physically tired at the end of the day, to have your work involve less email and more perspiration. In 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul gives some instructions for daily life to his readers:

But we encourage you, brothers and sisters, to do this even more, to seek to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you.–1 Thessalonians 4:10-11

Work with your own hands. I like that, even though I’ve pretty much always earned my living throughout my life by jobs far from manual labor. Was Paul a fool, urging people to take on mundane jobs? Was he encouraging the Thessalonians to settle for less than they could be if they engaged in some extracurricular activities and studied for the SAT?

My colleagues at school think that I’m underselling my talents raising rabbits and putting in a large garden. They also think I’m being foolish investing my writing skills creating children’s Bible study curriculum. But that is the work of these hands.