Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Not to long ago, as my folks were cleaning out the dark recesses of a tumbledown building on their property, they came across what remained of an old, homemade harness. This was not an ordinary harness, used for beasts of burden, rather it was a harness fashioned by my fathers hands, for the exclusive use of my mother. Yes, you read that right. My parents came across the remnants of a harness that my father had built to be worn by my mother.
Many moons ago, when I was a little girl, my parents moved from their comfortable life on an island outside of Seattle, to the outbacks of the American Redoubt. They bought 25 acres of raw land that boasted two creeks an abundant spring and a quirky bridge. Truth be told, they hadn't even seen the land itself - when they purchased their dream (on nothing more than a handshake), the property was under 3 feet of snow.
Hastily selling their island home, they loaded all of their earthly possessions into a 4 horse trailer (built by my fathers shop class) and bravely forged a new life. Although they bought their land outright, there was no infrastructure in place. Power lines, septic systems and water lines had to be installed. The well had to be developed, the property needed to be fenced and housing had to be secured. All of this was to be accomplish before the winter snow flew, roughly 3 months.
The first few weeks living our outback adventure found us sleeping in a borrowed tent and taking baths in the creek. We woke early (often to frozen ground, even in the middle of July) and filled our days with domesticating our new environment. My brother and I piled branches and other debris on towering burn piles, pulled obnoxious, persistent thistles and caught crawdads in the creeks. As we were playing/working, my parents were about the business of preparing a home for their family. My dad hand-dug our well, lined it with cedar boards and filled it with drain rock. They used shovels to trench a line from the spring to the location of our "someday" house. Dad "borrowed" a trackhoe and dug a hole for the septic tank, along with trenches for a drain field. They laid pipe and spread drain rock - and that is where the harness came in.
My parents couldn't afford to hire someone to come in and install a septic system. My dad had enough knowledge to put one in, so they opted for that course of action. They dug the holes, had a septic tank placed, but still needed to move a HUGE amount of drain rock for the drain field. At first, they tried just using the wheelbarrow. What they found was, that once loaded with rock, it was too heavy for one person to move. And so, Dad gathered together some rope and fashioned a harness that could be hooked to the front of the wheelbarrow. With mom pulling and dad pushing they could move load after load of rock from the pile to the drain field. After blisters, sores and exhaustion, the job was done. At a great cost to themselves, they had accomplished the extraordinary - building their dream, wheelbarrow load by wheelbarrow load.
I find it interesting that modern people tend to believe that suffering is something to be avoided at all costs. Our entire political system revolves around the concept that no one should have to suffer. We seem to believe that suffering produces bad fruit. If children are allowed to suffer, they will become criminals or psychopaths. If adult have to suffer, they will become abusers - of drugs, alcohol or children. Our entire society is entrenched in the belief that suffering is bad, therefore we have to do everything within our power to eradicate it.
However, that is a lie. Suffering can be a gift from God. It can produce character in our lives that nothing else has the capacity to. Suffering can bind us to the people that we love, it can serve as an investment in our future. In suffering to provide for their family, my parents gave a part of themselves, and in doing so, they invested in our family and in our land. Their blood, sweat and toil sustained us - their suffering became the glue that held our family together. They went without so they could provide for us. Through their actions, we learned that, although unpleasant, suffering wrought the fruit of gratefulness, humility and patience.
My parents helped shape the way that I view the world. I don't like to suffer. I don't like to see other people suffer. But I do see the value of suffering. I realize that only through suffering can God mold us into the image of His son. Only through suffering can we become truly grateful. Only through suffering can we truly empathize with others. Only through suffering can we build something lasting, something great.
My mothers harness now hangs in a place of honor. It is a reminder of what it is like to suffer. But much more than that, it is a reminder of the blessings that come from suffering.
Don't be afraid to suffer. Get your hands dirty. Go without. Tell your children no. Prepare them to step, undaunted into the future. Teach your children that it is O.K. to suffer - they and you - will be better for it.