Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Dangers of a Comfortable Life

It is easy, when pursuing a life of simplicity on the homestead, to pursue a comfortable life. We become complacent in the many jars of food put by for the winter, and the hay and wood stacked securely against the coming cold months. There seems to be a rush to beat the cold in these annual chores but the ultimate goal is comfort. However, we are called to greater pursuits than mere comfort and herein lies the danger.

Pursuit of personal comfort leads to sleepiness of spirit. We become immune to the needs of others. We become complacent to the cries of the broken or the needs of the poor. As homesteaders, we work so hard for what we have – we are more poor, or more broken than they. “Let someone else with greater resources meet the need”, we say. We fail to hear the voice of the Holy One prompting our charity or pushing us to a more challenging walk. We miss untold blessings as we lie down, like Christian, in Pilgrim’s Progress, at the resting place, and instead of mere resting, we sleep.

A second danger of pursuing the goal of personal comfort is a personal and spiritual blindness. We cannot see our own goal as a pursuit of personal comfort. Instead, we think we are living a simple life for the sake of the environment, or to create an ethical, eco-friendly livelihood or to serve our fellowman. When in reality, our every day decisions are based on what would give me the most comfort today. Thus we are willing to meet the needs of others when their needs make us uncomfortable. And I am willing to work hard for a few hours to put wood or food by for the coming discomfort of winter. But when this discomfort is abated I will change my effort of work, even if it makes those around me uncomfortable, all the while believing my true motivation is altruistic and not selfish. And in this blindness, we are satisfied and fail to pursue a greater purpose beyond the daily discomfort. We don’t set long term goals. We don’t act on principles. We don’t even mind increasing the discomfort of others to ensure our own comfort.

A third danger in pursuing the goal of personal comfort is mediocrity. It takes self discipline to practice a new skill every day until it is perfected and becomes “natural”. It is uncomfortable at first – even frustrating – as new neuropathways are forged in our brains and a body memory is gained, making the skill easy. Those who devote time, practice and patience to pursuing excellence will not be satisfied with a life devoted to personal comfort. The two are mutually exclusive. To become excellent at any skill we must first become uncomfortable.

God has called us to a higher standard than a comfortable life. As an artist, excellence is my standard and to pursue excellence I must first make many uncomfortable mistakes – in short – I must practice excellence. As a homesteader, my goal is to live in a way that God is glorified in the every day stacking of the wood against winter, in the treatment and care of my livestock, in the beauty and comfort of my home and in the pursuit of justice, mercy, piety, and excellence.

Is there room for personal comfort in this? Yes, but not as a goal, rather as a byproduct, all the while acknowledging that discomfort is part of growth and the way to maturity. We are called to live dangerously, self sacrificing lives, to promote justice, mercy and worship of the Most High God – in short, to glorify God and to love him forever. In fact, the mark of God’s grace in our lives is discomfort that sends us to our knees in prayer and leads us in the pursuit of knowing Him in a deeper way. Growing in knowing God is a goal worthy of the cost of discomfort.

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