Life’s Chief Labor? Part IV
In the last post we anticipated what habits would help husbands and fathers to be oriented toward the life of the home in ways that produce good fruit. What follows is not comprehensive. In fact it may seem simple, but simple things are often most important because they are most basic to life: plants need watering to live, pets need feeding to flourish, and man, well, man needs spiritual habits to cultivate holiness.
Tell Yourself the True Story
Humans are narrative beings: we interpret the world through the stories we tell. If someone asks how our day has been, we tell them “our story,” and the words we choose reflect what sort of setting, actors, action, means, and plot we believe tells the true story of our day.
Where does husbandry figure in the story men tell themselves (and others)? Does God make an appearance in our tales? Is He the central character in the action or are we? Is He simply part of the setting? Does He show up at all? What is the plot we follow as a character? Do our ambitions have the home in view? Do the means by which we overcome obstacles or fulfill quests include prayer, meditation on virtues, or the hiding of God’s Word in our hearts? Do my wife and children appear in my story as heroes or as villains? Are they trophies, props, or means? Are they companions, comrades, or charges?
As Christians, the true story of our lives flows out of the larger story of God’s redemption and restoration of Creation, told in the Scriptures and in the Church’s history. To the extent our stories are disconnected from the life of God’s story, to that extent our husbandry withers. Yet seeing ourselves through the plot, motifs, and themes of Scripture incorporates our own story into the life of God. Does my story inhabit God’s, or is His story just part of the narrative of “My Life”?
Cultivate the Spiritual Disciplines
Richard Foster opens his book, Celebration of Discipline, saying, “Superficiality if the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem.” Cultivating the home requires the sort of tedious, faithful plodding that characterizes old world occupations like farming, beekeeping, or shepherding—the same daily, weekly, monthly, seasonal tasks keep everything alive, growing, a fit for the harvest.
For men, cultivating husbandry involves growing a magnanimous spirit—a spirit so full, so richly contented, that it overflows into the home (and every area of life). Spiritual disciplines, like a good workout routine, or like rich loam, enlarge and enrich the capacity of our spirit to bear the burdens of life with ease, with joy, and send our roots deep to withstand the storms of life.
Space prevents us from considering all of the spiritual disciplines here, but Foster’s book is a good place to start looking. Instead, let’s finish by considering only one: prayer.
Prayer is routine as well as spontaneous. Regular times for prayer on regular topics ensure that no plot in the garden of life is without water. Regular prayer, regulated by Scripture’s patterns, ensures that all areas of life have been submitted to God to receive His guidance and help. Spontaneous prayer helps guard us against sinful desires spilling over into sinful action, can calm our anxious spirits, may prompt illumination from the Holy Spirit, or otherwise lead to a wise response to the circumstances we face.
Such habits help to train our hearts’ desires so that the overflow nourishes the lives of those around us. Men, husbands, fathers, who cultivate godly husbandry in their home may discover at the end of life that these efforts have been, indeed, life’s chief labor.
Mr. Joshua Butcher