This weekend, my husband was gone for three days at our church men’s retreat. I am so thankful that he was able to get some time away to be encouraged by other men and relax and serve. And at the same time, I knew that a weekend of him being away meant a lot more of both easy and hard at our house. 🙂
I’m an introvert, and that’s where the “easy” comes in. With my husband out of town, I have evenings completely to myself, to work on projects or watch a Hallmark movie (which he will endure through, but it’s not exactly the manly type of movie he enjoys!) or read or just sit and drink a cup of tea in silence. “Easy” also comes in with mealtimes, as the children and I will generally eat up all the leftovers or have “kid night”–meaning, an assortment of snack-y type foods and appetizers for them to graze on while we watch a movie or play a game. When Daddy is home, I like to cook nice full meals, but when he is away, we change things up a bit.
The “hard” comes in when you consider that with one spouse gone, that leaves the other in full charge of the household and all its occupants. In this case, half a dozen children to feed, teach, dress, supervise their work and play, review memory work with, get out the door to church on time, and of course, put to bed (which is perhaps the hardest task of all on some nights). And then remembering to do laundry, vacuum, clean up, set the trash out on the appropriate day, and keep things generally in order.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last ten years, it is that hard is NOT bad. In fact, hard is sometimes a sign that the most good is going to be harvested. Pretty much anything worth doing is going to be hard work, whether it is losing weight, remodeling a house, birthing a child, completing a work project, working through conflict, or getting up the courage to introduce yourself to someone who might become a friend. And if we shy away from those things that are hard, then we are going to miss out on an awful lot.
There are certainly things in my life that either I or other might consider “hard” things. Some are obvious, some are not; some are things that may come easy to me but appear hard to others, and some are things that are very difficult for me, but that others find easy. My mother-in-law can cook an incredible meal for forty people several times a week and entertain them beautifully in her home; for me, the very thought exhausts me! Yet the prospect of forty children in my home for community VBS for a week gives me energy and life and seems like no big deal, whereas the very idea might terrify others.
Marriage is hard. Parenting is hard. Obedience to the Lord can be hard. Living in a fixer-upper can be hard. Loving my neighbor who constantly parks in front of my mailbox can be hard (and downright annoying). Serving alongside people who rub me the wrong way is hard.
Living in small spaces has challenged my selfishness, my greed, and my self-sufficiency. Do I care more about these items than people? Do I love it so much I can’t let it go? Am I content with what God has graciously given to us, and am I doing my best to wisely steward it? Do I trust that if I need something again, God will provide for me?
Our fixer-upper home projects have challenged my contentment and pride and attitude. Am I content even in whatever stage of a project the house and yard are in? Am I too proud to let me friends see my unfinished places? Am I joyful even when I’m tired of spending hours fixing things or losing another weekend with my husband because he has to work on our fence project a year in the making with months still to go?
Marriage has challenged my self-sufficiency, my desire for control, my self-protection mechanisms…am I too proud to admit that sometimes I need help or affirmation or just to be held for a while? Do I trust that the Lord will speak to my husband and lead Him, and that He will bless my submission even when it is hard or when I disagree? Can I strip away my masks long enough to be honest and vulnerable, sharing with my spouse the deep parts of myself that I keep hidden away from others?
Children have challenged my patience, my endurance, my pride, my selfishness…pretty much anything I failed to list earlier. 🙂 Do I recognize that I am weak and cannot love and train my children in my own strength? Have I asked God for the humility to repent before my children when I sin, and to swallow my pride when they misbehave in public so that I can respond appropriately and in love? Am I willing to die to my own desires and wants in order to faithfully take the time needed to parent my children? And do I realize that in the end, they are not mine anyway, but God’s?
For all these hard challenges, I don’t think any of us would say that homes, marriage, children, or any of those things are bad. They are hard because growing pains hurt. Pulling out sin-weeds hurts. Tearing up old ground to make room for new seeds is messy and complicated. Watering and tending every day is a discipline, which isn’t always pleasant at the time. Waiting can be tiresome and discouraging. It isn’t easy to invest so much so faithfully for so long, wondering if you will even see the return for your labor in your lifetime. Some seasons feel endless and dry and cold and bleak. But as Scripture reminds us, “let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due time we shall reap a harvest if we do not lose heart!”
Dear readers, whatever your “hard” is in life right now, be encouraged. Hard is not bad. Hard is an opportunity for you to lean on Jesus and realize that you can do all things through His strength. All the things that He has called you to do, and all the things that He requires obedience in, He has already provided you with the strength and ability to fulfill. So take heart and take courage, and take JOY! The joy of the Lord is your strength! The harvest is coming. 🙂