Saturday, August 30, 2003


Taste the joy, that springs from labor- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

When I stopped by the hospital this week to see Lexie and Madeline, the maternity ward bedside discussion took the inevitable turn toward the actual birthing process.
I have never been present in the delivery room for the birth of a child, but I've had a few of these discussions. Most are usually along the lines of, "Men don't know anything about pain, you should try squeezing a watermelon out of something the size of a quarter."

My kids are my stepchildren so I missed out on the joys of labor, and I might add the diaper years. In retrospect, and in all honesty, that seems like a fair trade off to me.

Anyway, Lexie's labor was easy. NOTE: easy is the word Lexie used not me. I'm probably breaching confidence by even mentioning it since we both agreed that if she brought up the ease of Madeline's delivery with someone who had actually given birth it would provoke a horror story along the lines of, "I was in labor for 67 hours, the hospital air conditioning was out, and the anesthesiologist became a practicing member of NarcAnon the same morning I was admitted."

Lexie's experience, and this being Labor day weekend, started me thinking about labor pains I have experienced.

The torment of laboring under self delusion and the punishing pangs of trying to keep that realization buried beneath denial.
The searing misery of failure brought about by pride, and my own refusal to truly work, at my first marriage.
The distress of laboring to spare your kids the pains you've endured, but then having to acknowledge that some lessons everyone must learn for themselves.
I've also, of course, had the more common aches, strains, and one hernia resulting from attempts to shoulder more physical labor than my increasingly saggy physical specimen will allow.

This week, however, was a good one for labor pains. Lexie's were minimal, and mine were few.

Our church property has a prosperousness of potential, but truthfully, we lack people willing to do much of the work. We have an abundance of "idea" people, but not as many "let's sweat" people. My close friend, Ben, has reminded me often that this is one of God's many ways of teaching me patience.

On Wednesday, I drove up to the church to find one of our members, Charles, putting plants around our church sign. We've had the sign since the church was built and the rock work around it was designed to hold plants, but we've never put any there. Charles took it upon himself to make the sign his project. He went into great detail about how he had chosen the plants so that they might survive not only the punishing South Texas heat, but also our congregation's penchant for neglect. It was wonderful to hear his plans and see his enthusiasm. It was even more joyous to see him actually acting upon his vision.

I have had my labor for my travail; ill-thought-on of her, and ill-thought-on of you; gone between and between, but small thanks for my labor.
- William Shakespeare

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy working on the church property, even if I'm working alone, but that hasn't always been the case. I've stumbled into the trap of resentfulness, when there have been large tasks to do with few or no volunteers. Some time ago though I found a place of peace. I recognized that to me such work is a form of a worship. Why would I resent someone for not worshiping God the way I do? Would I want to be held to their standard of worship? I could no more force my perceptions upon someone else, than I could force them to pray.

I should make clear my ascent to this self professed lofty plateau is hardly noble. It is wrought in part out of necessity (I've been down the road of denial remember?). It's still my philosophy that if you can't work joyfully or at least diligently for God than you haven't had enough crappy bosses in your life. I've apparently already had the required quota.

This morning, however, was also wonderful. I went to the church as part of the ongoing and somewhat futile war of the weeds and found my friend Jerry already there unloading his riding lawnmower (there's a lesson in coveting here I'm just going to skip), and then my friend Sam drove up with his weed-eater. They were anxious to labor, and we got it done.

In the process, we enjoyed each other's company, we worshiped...and we served God.

Works for me.

Ecclesiastes 5:12
The sleep of a laborer is sweet