Writing Challenge: LABOR
April 23rd, 2004
Author: Karen Johnson
At first blush, when I see the word ‘labor’, onomatopoeia pops into my mind. The mere sound of the two syllables reminds me of the challenging task God has given me mothering three boys, specifically, my second-born, Nathan, with a precociousness somewhere in the stratosphere—which I’m sure is a derivative of a tongue-twisting scientific term most of us would balk at trying to pronounce.
One sunny morning, I excitedly announced the ‘Johnsons-Not-For-Hire Crew ,’ consisting of three stair step toe-heads, would have the privilege of rearranging the family garage; we just had the concrete floor removed and freshly poured. Everyone settled into their areas of expertise: Ben, the 16 year old, dutifully began hauling plastic containers, stacking them neatly in rows climbing toward the ceiling. Aaron, the 10 year old shadowed Ben, with the two of them soon becoming a blur of productivity.
In the meantime, Nathan also settled into his area of expertise: negotiating. I watched as he surreptitiously scanned the pile of items mentally examining each one to meet his size requirements. Grudgingly, he lumbered into the garage carrying a few odd-shaped, light weight objects, repeated the process a few times, and cunningly disappeared. A while later when I noticed a lapse in the routine I found Nathan sitting in an empty laundry basket, swinging his knobby-kneed legs in a back and forth motion, fully enjoying his respite. With my hands on my hips and drops of sweat stinging my eyes, I glared at him. Unmoved by my presence, Nathan lifted the corners of his mouth and exuberantly replied, “Even workers who get paid take a break.”
“Not after 10 minutes worth of effort,” I said. A sinking feeling consumed me for a moment. Lord, what have I done wrong? We’ve always taught our children as you’ve instructed in your Word to do their work heartily for you.
So, I pushed aside those thoughts and mustered the last surge of energy commanding Nathan to get up and finish the chore. As expected, he began compiling his list of excuses from the balmy weather to aching feet to exhaustion. I ignored his pleading and internally breathed a sigh of relief when the last tool was put on its hook.
Of course, Nathan had already dashed inside. I knew precisely where he was because I could hear the serene tones coming from the baby grand piano through his fingertips. As I sat down exhausted from another lesson in labor and perseverance I fixed my eyes on Nathan observing as he tenaciously played through the repertoire for Communion Sunday he’d been practicing countless hours for weeks. Then, the Lord touched my heartstrings.
I was disappointed with Nathan earlier in the day because of his attitude toward a job that was important to me. But, God taught me Nathan’s definition of labor is about more than putting away boxes and bicycles, the concept I’ve come to know as that dreaded onomatopoeia. For Nathan, labor means spending time passionately doing what you love to do AND glorifying God.