PERSONAL MAINTENANCE

                I went to mass today.  It was a little moment of personal maintenance, of getting my soul right for a coming season of labor.  It was less than the time I would give to a machine, to greasing a piece of equipment, to field prep, or tending to the aid of herds, and yet it is some of the most necessary maintenance of all. 

                We are a few days out from running wheat, and the rains keep falling just enough to drag the drying time for when the grain will be ready a little farther out.  I am nervous about the crops we have planted: their health, emergence, weeds, pests, and market prices.  There is always a reason to deter us from an action, just as there is a reason for every decision on which we choose to follow through.

                My “reasons” for not going were: I needed to fix an auger, I needed to move a tractor, check on this, check on that, worry about the field I just planted before worrying about another still unsown.  If I didn’t go to mass, maybe I would have time to finish all of this, and in bringing these tasks to a close, maybe I would feel less stressed.

                My reasons for going were: I needed focus, I needed perspective for the tasks to come in our pending harvest, I needed to reflect and make peace with an outcome still unknown and enter into my coming labor with a full and happy heart. 

                That may sound a little over the top, but it’s true for me, and I believe I’m not alone.  Harvest is an emotional time, the accumulation of a whole season’s work.  With all that is put into a crop—labor, capital, management, and time—it is harvest when we learn where it is that we sit: with production, profitability, whether we may live comfortably and enjoy a few niceties of the world, or whether we must tighten our belts and refine our system to improve our place in this game. 

                Even with everything is done right, the game can still be lost.  Floods can come and drown a bounty before our eyes.  Droughts can hold and burn green life into withered brown and tan.  Pests can sweep a field and cut heads and stalks before we ever detect their presence, and even when everything is right, the price can still be wrong. 

                In the end, worrying doesn’t get us anywhere—in spite of all the time we cater to it—and, for me, I’ve learned to worry less by making peace before an action, regardless of an outcome that is largely out of my control.  I learned this in the Marine Corps.  It takes a peace of conscience to commit oneself to battle and submit one’s living fate to infinite unknowns.  No matter how well you play the game, lose once, and you don’t play again.

                In life, I have worried far more over finance, pride, and perception than I ever did on decisions made in war.  In life, I must live with the harm to hubris that comes with perceptions of fault and failure.  In war, I wouldn’t.  In war, I lived and accepted what will always, at some level, be left to fate, yet in coming home, I believed I held greater control.  In years since, I have relearned the peace I found in war, and I accept the uncertainties that are not for me to solve.  I cannot change the weather, market prices, the perceptions or approval of others’ should I manage in a manner slightly different than standard norms, but I can make peace with a future that is largely perception and affect the actions that are left for my control. 

                So often in life, I feel we lose ourselves chasing distractions and small matters that pull us from the purpose of higher aims.  In times of stress, I feel my mind often pulled in directions that do little good, but hold my focus and priority before other matters that—if addressed—would put many of my lesser worries to rest.  We focus on distractions and small matters because their addressment provide immediate closure and senses of accomplishment, but in leaving larger matters to linger, we worry only further on the uncertainty our absence of action towards them keeps in place. 

                Small immediate tasks were my distraction, while my greater issue was preparing my spirit for the coming harvest.  For me, harvest will determine profit (or loss), an adjusted standard of life, an expansion or closing of opportunities, and lessons learned for a refinement of employed practices.  Until harvest begins, I know I will keep worrying on matters beyond my control, and once dust sets into stir, underlining blue skies and shading night stars from running equipment—whatever the outcome—I know my worries will find peace.    

                Making peace before action (harvest) was my larger matter, and for making peace, reflections in faith and of gratitude for what an experience gives me—good and bad—before worrying on what I do not have, or do not know, is where I most readily find peace.  Most often, this process begins in a pew opening myself for a message I can’t, alone, put into proper words.  There is always a reason to deter us from an action, just as there is a reason for every decision on which we choose to follow through. 

                Today I followed through.  I went to mass. 

                I sat in the back, where even daily mass worshippers seem to hold in disproportion to all the space up front.  At the first reading, I felt my face grow warm and my spirit lighten as the words were read and I was struck at the sense of God’s humor, timing, and the precision of HIS message:

“Brothers and sisters, consider this:
whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly,
and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.
Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion,
for God loves a cheerful giver.
Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you,
so that in all things, always having all you need,
you may have an abundance for every good work.
As it is written:

He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor;
his righteousness endures forever.


The one who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food
will supply and multiply your seed
and increase the harvest of your righteousness.

You are being enriched in every way for all generosity,
which through us produces thanksgiving to God.”

                The reading was a message direct to my greatest worries: the harvest, labor, and all we did, and in the message, I felt and found the peace I sought. 

                Often, at mass, I find one reading, or one part of a homily, to hit me stronger than another.  The direct message hits me and holds, and I lose focus for some that follows after as my mind holds fixed to a concept already brought before me.  I expected this reading to be that strike, but I was surprised again.

                Following the Gospel, I listened to the homily and the fundamental question around which the message returned, “Is God enough?”  Is God enough, or do we still seek status, prominence and privilege?  Is God enough, or do we still need more?  Is God enough, or do we need affirmation for our own place and position in this world? 

                The questions are easy enough, but their consequences aren’t.  This year especially, I have struggled balancing ambitions and personal objectives.  Why do I seek them, and to what advantage?  I have been tested, humbled, and still I return seeking to make and become more.  When acting, and thinking, first in selfishness, aspirations ended in frustrations and disappointment.

                But God is surprising, and I’ve sensed HIS/HER/ITS presence touching me in many ways I cannot explain but undeniably sense when brought into such awareness.  In acting not for me, but in the service of a perceived greater will, I have found many of my own ambitions answered, personal disappointments erased, and a confidence in a future I cannot control but will accept and continue to live with dignity and goodwill towards all with whom I live and come to know. 

                “Is God enough?”  I thought I needed more, and seeking more, I lost hold to some of what I had.  Then, when I made peace, what was lost became restored—in different form.  Opportunities lost became advantages gained, and today I better accept and find gratitude for what comes understanding such opportunities may very well be gone tomorrow, but that God will continue to provide so long as I continue to be receptive to opportunities presented. 

                I hope for a great harvest, for good prices, and steady weather as we reap, but should it be otherwise, “Is God enough?”  We have harvested far less, in conditions far worse, for lower market prices.  “Is God enough?”  Yes.

                I hope for opportunities, to improve my position, for opportunities and amenities for my family.  We hope to build a larger house, with more space for our three growing children, but should it not be, “Is God enough?” 

                “God is able to make every grace abundant for (me), so that in all things, always having all (I) need.”

                I already have all I need.  I am grateful for the closeness that we have, for the night sounds, and way I smile, when one of our children rolls over and their body knocks against the wall and echoing through our home.  I am grateful for the ability to interpret my three year old’s dreams when he speaks out in his sleep—most often defending a toy from the reaches of his older brother and sister.  I am grateful for the table at which we sit, together, even if it is not large and for the food and fellowship we share, knowing one day I will miss these moments when they’re gone.  “Is God enough?”  Yes. 

                I want to be a better farmer, a greater tenant to the land, and in successes and failures, I wish to ever refine our process and practices to align with the mysteries, often greater learned through science, of God’s design.  “Is God enough?”  In years of bounty, I will be grateful, and in years of greater difficulties, I too will be grateful for resilience taught and hard lessons learned.  “Is God enough?”  Yes.    

                I went to mass today.  It was a little moment of personal maintenance, of getting my soul right for a coming season of labor.  It was less than the time I would give to a machine, to field prep, or tending to the aid of herds, and yet it is some of the most necessary maintenance of all.  I set my mind and spirit right.  I am now ready for the harvest and reaping of all that we have sown. 

“The one who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food
will supply and multiply your seed
and increase the harvest of your righteousness.”


                I pray it is a good year, and to God, I am grateful.

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