I’ve been thinking a lot lately. Thinking about life and what matters. This exercise is probably pretty normal for a guy in his late thirties. I’ve finally run headlong into mid-life, and while it has brought a few gray hairs, luckily, it hasn’t been accompanied by the dreaded crisis.
I don’t know if it’s my children or my land or the escape from the shackles of debt, but something has changed in my outlook recently. Life is short and beautiful and guaranteed to end at some point in the not too distant future… for each and every one of us. Leigh and I have marveled at how death is the ONLY guarantee in this life, and yet, we run from it as if we can escape. As a civilization, our faith is completely shaken by the only thing in the physical world on which we can count with absolute certainty.
We have a saying in our house… “Who in this world can you control?” For each of us, the answer is the same. There’s little in this life that bends absolutely to our will – not the weather, not the government, not the people in our lives. However, our outlook and our decisions are, without qualification, our own.
In the last year, we’ve made a million decisions.
Where will we live? How much should we offer? Which parts of the land should we clear? Who do we hire? Are we ready for a chicken or a dog? Can we survive in half the square footage? What will people think?
Yet it seems that the most important question to answer along the way has been, “Why?”.
There’s a story passed in permaculture circles that sums this idea up nicely:
A young woman was preparing a ham dinner. After she cut off the end of the ham, she placed it in a pan for baking.
Her friend asked her,”Why did you cut off the end of the ham”?
And she replied ,”I really don’t know but my mother always did, so I thought you were supposed to.”
Later when talking to her mother she asked her why she cut off the end of the ham before baking it, and her mother replied, “I really don’t know, but that’s the way my mom always did it.”
A few weeks later while visiting her grandmother, the young woman asked, “Grandma, why do you cut off the end of a ham before you bake it?”
Her grandmother replied, “Well, when you were a child we only had one baking pan, and the ham wouldn’t fit, so I cut off the ends.”
The massive transition from our past lives to our present forced us face-to-face with this reality. So many of our previous decisions were the natural extension of what we had seen growing up. We didn’t evaluate our situation and strategically set out a vision for what we wanted. We simply cut the ends off of the ham.
What parts of our lives were we giving to the status quo? How much square footage did we really need to buy and heat and cool and furnish and clean to be truly happy? What does our ideal life really look like, and how much does our current life resemble it? Our culture is quick to shove easy answers down our throats, but something led us to dig deeper. In the process, we learned some absolutely amazing things about abandoning our preconceptions and living life in search of real joy.
So I leave you today with a challenge: question your life. Ask why. Discover what it is that God created your for, and get on a path to do that tomorrow. Stop cutting the ends off the ham… that is, of course, unless you discover that’s really the way you like it.