The people who populate my daily life know the value of sweaty, physically exhausting work. They know how to make the most of a non-rainy day. Their bodies show the years in laugh lines, stooped shoulders, and calloused hands. Their willingness to work until the job is done is not the exception, it is the rule.
I spend my days as the pastor meant to inspire and encourage people to work on their spiritual lives. This type of work is not evident in planted or harvested fields. It is not evident in well cared for livestock. It is not evident in academic success. Spiritual work is the type of work evident in gentle hearts, in compassionate hands, and forgiveness that defies logic. It is the kind of work that rarely has concrete evidence to be admired from the front porch or tractor cab.
The lack of concrete evidence of spiritual work done well makes for long seasons. Gentle hearts are grown through many seasons of learning what matters most, laugh lines are often the physical evidence of gentle hearts. Compassionate hands are developed much like calloused hands, through years of giving until it hurts and your body shows the evidence of sacrifice. The ability to forgive comes because we have failed enough times to know without forgiveness we would be alone in the world. All of these traits require years of nurturing to grow.
These long seasons can be disheartening, especially when surrounded by fields that are planted and harvested annually. Unlike sinking your hands into the dirt of a vegetable bed to plant seedlings you will pick for dinner in a few months, the spiritual work a pastor is tasked with rarely bears fruit in that pastor’s tenure. It is the work of the pastors who came before me bearing fruit as I work alongside the people of this community. This leads my prayers to be ones of thanksgiving for the faithfulness of those pastors.
Gentle hearts, compassionate hands, and overflowing forgiveness are evidence of the spiritual work being done by the hardworking people I spend my days alongside. I remain hopeful the spiritual work I am doing here will continue to bear fruit long after I am but a memory to those who will still be making the most of a non-rainy day. My work is full of hope, the same as the work of those around me each time they plant a field, teach a lesson, care for a patient, or complete a task. The fruit of our labors may not be evident right away but it will indeed follow us in this life and the next.