Thursday, June 12, 2008

Stewardship Comes Through Great Teachers

Tonight (while off to try to find a bike for Gary, and for some bike accessories--see, aren't we getting to be the bike-y people!) we drove past farmland...and the outstanding farm in our view was the Lavender Hills Farm, where Katie has worked in years past, either at their summer fairs or wrapping their homemade soap for their gift shop.
I was noting how they really don't have an enormous amount of acreage; maybe 10 acres maximum. But they know how to make the most of it! The farm is cute and orderly and scenic, let alone productive. They harvest an enormous amount of lavender from their little fields. From the lavender they make various things such as soap and boutique items and ice cream; they sell the flowers by the bundles; they have their summer fair and they run a gift shop. They really are good stewards. So the next question, in light of this, Gary asked, "Are they Christians?" Now I know that stewardship isn't exclusive to Christians, but it's a goal and a challenge that we may have more reason than others to implement, since God's word exhorts us to be good stewards with our time, our lives, our relationships, and the things we own. Still, it's thought-provoking to see an unbeliever so good at something that many of us find so challenging.
When talking to one of the owners of the farm one of the summers that Katie was working there, I found out that it had been in the family for generations. I think that this is one of the chief keys to stewardship and other exercises in wisdom. When parents are involved in the lives of their children, passing along to them everything they know to pass on, the children have a natural advantage, and the converse is true--when the relationship between parents and children is broken or hindered, when there is strife or death in the family, the children are at a disadvantage. They have to learn so much more for themselves, as if from scratch. It's a feeling of constantly being behind the 8-ball, needing to be a continual learner, a good observer, and having to do many things by trial and error. Perhaps the majority of children today are in some form of this situation--either their parents are divorced or children of divorce, or their parents are rarely at home because of work, or there are drug and alcohol problems, or other problems rock their lives. Many children are so used to neglect as a result of these things that they don't even know how to relate to adults; many dismiss what adults have to say as irrelevant to their lives.
From the biblical account, until the time of Noah's flood, the people of the earth were at a great advantage. Their lives were extremely long in comparison to today, and so there would have been many generations still alive when a child was born. Imagine the wisdom that could be passed through the generations if that were the case! And yet, still, by the time of Noah, only his family, 8 people, were inclined to live a life honoring to God. All the rest provoked God to the point where He decided to flood all the earth and destroy them. I can't imagine how this became the case; there had to have been an incredible disregard for the wisdom of the generations that came before. This whole scenario boggles my mind. I don't know what explanation can account for it except for the depravity of man, that such a seeming advantage could have so universally gone to waste.
I remember my grandmother, "Nana," used to come to visit for a month or more at a time. She considered herself a burden, from the things she said. I knew though that she was an enormous help to my mother. Nana showed me how to bake bread, various other things about cooking, little things such as how to sew a button on a garment. I know I didn't always appreciate her presence as I wish I could now (especially when she corrected me--I wasn't one to take it well), but she probably spent more time directly teaching me than anyone else in my childhood. She lived to be 92; she was born prematurely, and didn't have toenails because the hot water bottle that was used to keep that tiny baby warm leaked and burned her toes. She'd had a thyroid surgery--I remember pondering her scar at her throat when I would look at her--and at some time in her life had a wrong-type blood transfusion. I remember wondering, when I was 30 and anemic, how in the world someone could ever live to be as old as my Nana. She had lived through some tough things, and she was amazing, looking back. I'm thankful for the things she taught me, and yet I wonder whether I am ever as good at passing such things along to my children. At least I'm homeschooling; that's an advantage my mother and Nana never had. I'm endlessly thankful for that opportunity.
All of us have different ways that we can be good stewards with the things that God has given us. We can learn from our family, our friends, and even the other visible examples that we see in our lives, such as that lavender farm. We need to listen to the older people around us; as far as stewardship goes, I think they have much to share. Stewardship was a more universal ideal in previous generations. I wish I had listened better to Nana, and that I had a better memory for those things that she taught me.
Having come to Christ, I feel that God has launched my learning about stewardship, about passing things along to the next generation, about teaching and being teachable. I still have a great deal to learn, but God is the source of all true wisdom, so I know where to go for the learning I lack. Faith is the finishing school of life, taking any raw material that God has given a person and building on it, refining it, polishing it; taking out the impurities, and bringing out the shining elements. We're all in process; none of us is what we should be, but only God is able to bring us there. He is the ultimate Steward, and we can only be what we ought to be when we submit to His stewardship. I am so thankful to be under His teaching today and not where I was at 27, lost and confused until I accepted Christ as my Savior. He is my ultimate Teacher; He is my source of help and guidance, and I know that when I follow His leading I can't go wrong.

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