"We cultivate a very small field for Christ but we love it, knowing that God does not require great achievements, but a heart that holds back nothing for self."-- St. Rose Philippine Dechesne
This powerful statement has had a spot on my bathroom mirror for a few years. It's been a favorite of mine for even longer. It seems so simple, but every now and then it strikes me in a new way. This year we put in a new backyard garden, my own little field if you will. We have a small yard and there was no place for it until we put in a fence. Now there is a perfect little corner and dh was kind enough to build a raised bed for us earlier this spring. We started small with room to grow. Goodness knows I'm going to need some way to feed these boys as they get older.
What surprised me was how much work this little patch of land has proved to be. There was the building of the bed and the trips to the hardware store that entailed, the trucking in of dirt requiring coordinating the use of Grandpa's truck, the work of choosing the best plants, planning the space (we went to three different stores looking for broccoli), all before we set about actually planting anything. Then once it was planted there were a few cold nights requiring me to traipse out in the dark with old sheets and in search of rocks and such for weights to shield the seedlings from the crazy ups and down of Ohio weather. Then, despite my efforts we had to make yet another trip to the nursery and replant a few spots where the cold crept in.
Then there is the maintenance. The weeding, and the watering. The task of unrolling great lengths of hose to get from spigot to garden. The even more tedious task of rolling up the hose when done. Watering the garden often means watering the kids too. This means more laundry, more towels, more dirty wet floors to tend. Each time I think I'll just spend a few minutes on this little garden, I'm amazed to find I've spent an entire morning, especially since the mornings are my time to spend with my youngest three children.
As much work as this "field" is, the work of my "field for Christ" which is my children is even more demanding. Lately the task of caring for them has been arduous and exhausting. I suppose spring is the season for laying foundations and that always seems to entail more work in gardening as well as child rearing. With so many little ones, we are in a springtime of sorts within our family too. The foundation is being set for our little children learning to take care of themselves and work as a family. They are seedlings growing in virtue. Trying to keep up with this training of little ones, the endless activities and appointments, the mountains of laundry, and maintain a peaceful home with the bustle of children has left me exhausted. It also left me a little bitter wanting more "me" time.
I struggle daily to see that the weeding and the watering are what bring a good harvest. They are what God is asking of me. The pedicures, shopping, time alone, glasses of wine, night off, or the endless list of things in my mind I've decided I deserve because of all of the hard work I've put in, are not going to bring about the harvest God desires.
Don't get me wrong, those things aren't bad in and of themselves. I assure you I still plan to go for a pedicure hopefully with my mom who has had an even rougher few weeks in and out of the hospital. There is a beautiful bottle of my favorite port on the counter which will inevitably make it's way to a few glasses as I sit on the front porch and try to have an uninterrupted conversation with dh. It's just that today I needed the reminder that those things aren't what it's all about. Those things are supposed to be a help. They should help me at the true task of cultivating my field whether that field is big or small. We all need a break, a respite, or we will get worn down to the point we are unable to cultivate any field, but it is all too easy to allow our selfishness to overtake these respites and start allowing them to hold us back from our tasks of cultivation.
It was clear that I had let them become too important, I had lost balance and perspective. I had let the weeds of my own self indulgence choke out my harvest. Instead of refreshing me, I just wanted more time for me and thus had less time for cultivation. Self indulgence always does this. It leaves us even more empty with a greediness for more indulgence. While it brings some immediate gratification it robs me of a true harvest. True fulfillment only comes from giving more of myself, even when that self-centered evil angel is sitting on my shoulder telling me how much I deserve more.
One simple test I have used to determine if my down time is becoming too indulgent is to ask myself if after the time spent do I feel energized in my duties as a wife and mother. After a Mom's Night Out do I feel renewed in my vocation? Do I have a new zeal for cultivating the small field given to my care? Often times the answer is yes. My time has provided a much needed break, and the great friends I have offered new perspective and encouragement. However, sometimes the answer is no. Sometimes I just want more, more, more. One night out leads to the desire for another and soon I'm not enjoying the task of motherhood, I'm resenting the demands of it. Sometimes it even has nothing to do with the frequency I engage in these activities, but more to do with the place they hold in my heart. The thought of time away from my duties consumes me and even though I am still tending my garden, I am doing so resentfully and not with the love and care it deserves.
At these times, I am in most need of more self sacrifice, not more self indulgence. If the things I am using for rest and relaxation do not result in a renewal or in increased physical, emotional, or spiritual energy to tend to the field, then I need to rethink them. I need to set myself again to the task given me with a revived spirit of self-denial. I need less pedicures, less retail therapy, less indulging, and more prayer. Prayer is the ultimate water for our gardens and the truest refresher for a tired gardener.