Updated: Jul 2, 2020
EARLIER IN MY "DREAM LIFE" IN THE COUNTRY, I experienced a remarkable day that's become a metaphor for what it takes to fulfill a vision for a satisfying life. The story reflects a simple pleasure of country living.
But simple isn't necessarily easy.
Not So Easy Does It
One Saturday, our family relished a peaceful evening grilling ribs over an open fire under a comfortably cool, moonless, but star-filled, evening. My wife and I, plus the seven children still at home at the time, laughed, roasted the ends of sticks, and petted the family golden retriever. The two hours were idyllic.
But it came at the cost of what we endured for the several hours before that.
So they could parboil the ribs and prep the evening veggies, my wife and teenage daughters shoveled out cooking space from the day’s previous meals, fruit and vegetable preserving, and assorted other activities in our Grand Central Kitchen.
I corralled our three youngest—complete with their ever-present special needs ranging from mild autism to Down syndrome—and we readied the outdoor venue.
After piling a month’s worth of empty, burnable animal feed bags from the porch into the pick-up truck, along with buckets for water and a couple of Tiki torches, we headed to the barn (a half mile down the driveway and up the road) for more empty bags, camping chairs, and shovels. That done, we drove back past the house to our “upper field,” where several years ago my second son had spent countless hours hacking briars and chopping weeds to clear a picturesque spot along the creek for camping and cookouts.
No matter what you attempt,
if it's worthwhile, it won't come easy.
I cajoled the youngsters into dragging branches from the tree line to the burning pit where I tasked myself with unloading the dredgings from porch and barn.
I glanced periodically back toward the house to gauge my wife’s progress milking the cow, so I could time the start of the fire in order to have coals ready when she arrived with the ribs. About dusk, my team and I lit the fire. Our timing was just right, and ribs made the grill top just before it got too dark to see them.
So: Idyllic evening? Delightful setting? The feeling of a charmed existence? You bet.
I wouldn’t trade that simple evening by the fire for any “blockbuster entertainment” either coast could conjure. But getting there wasn’t easy.
And therein lies the metaphor: No matter what you attempt, if it’s worthwhile, it won’t come easy.
Simple Spirituality the Hard Way
It’s tempting to think of monasteries as bastions of simple living . . . the sublime reward of daily prayers and companionship with like-minded folks.
Daily prayers, yes, but what about the nightly ones? While monastic schedules usually begin at what most of us would consider an ungodly hour, one community I know of sets the bar for hardness in their mode of simple living.
Eighty miles southeast of Phoenix, in the desolate but breathtaking seclusion of the Sonoran Desert, monks at St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery are up and at ‘em every morning of every day (yes, that’s all seven days a week!) in time to begin the “daily” prayer regimen at 1:45 A.M.
And even if individual monks are relatively penniless, monasteries as a whole absolutely cannot be. Monks the world over spend days in hard work—making fine cheese and wine (praise be!), training dogs, publishing books, crafting gifts, maintaining retreat centers, counseling, and serving churches and the indigent. A high price for a simple life. Again, though, I dare say they would tell you it’s worth it.
Get Perspective, Not a Complex
As philosopher, poet, and playwright Johann Goethe reputedly said, “Everything is hard before it is easy.”
I’ve spent a long time learning that, just because a pursuit is hard, doesn’t mean I’m doing something wrong. Often, in fact, the things that provide the greatest reward are the most demanding.
Mine included moving out of town, growing at least some of our own food, and starting a business.
Whatever yours might be, if you’re wondering what you’ve gotten yourself into, just make sure your perspective is right as you pursue a dream in life:
Having a hard life is not your goal, but neither is avoiding one.
Easy won’t get you there, but hard is worth the effort.
For more about the rewards of not choosing "easy," check out my previous post “Letting Go of Easy.”