Friday, August 12, 2016

Vacuums, Hoes, and Striving for Godliness

Giant Tasks, and the Small Steps Needed to Accomplish Them

The other day I was waling the track in the CU field house when I noticed a worker doing what seemed ridiculous. The field house had been used for weeks by various youth groups and conferences, and the residue of these groups still remained on the floor. The red, rubbery track section had all sorts of dirt, small pebbles, wrappers, etc., all over. And as I began to walk I saw, ahead of me, a girl with one of those portable vacuum cleaners you wear like a backpack used to clean in hallways and rooms. There she was, vacuuming the track--all six lanes, plus the surrounding red surfaces. Back and forth the vacuum stroked the track, again and again as she worked from the outer wall inward to the blue infield, and then back out. It was a massive job, and here was this one girl and one vacuum. It seemed overwhelming to think that she would be doing this. Imagine showing up for work, picking up a vacuum and heading to a cavernous building to start--you and your "wand." And yet, as I completed lap after lap, I noticed that she would be a little further along each time--not a lot, but still noticeable. As I was finishing I was passing her and looked back--she had covered nearly a quarter of the track! It was still a long way to go, but look how far she had made it!

This reminded me of a time I'd faced a similar task--actually a number of them. For two summers, I worked for my uncle in eastern Washington on his farm. He had grape vineyards, but also pasture for his cow and a grassy field for his horses. One day I was given the challenge of grabbing my hoe and going out to the nearly 20 acre section of the vineyard with immature grape vines. My job was to hoe out the weeds--getting below the surface to try to pull at the roots. And of course I was to miss the grape vines! I was to start on the first row, work my way all the way down, and then back up the next row. I don't know if you have an idea of how big a 20 acre vineyard looks, but I couldn't believe what I had to do. But I started, and I hoed, and hoed, and hoed. I can't even remember how long it took (more than a day or two, I believe), but I remember when I finished the last row and couldn't believe it.

Another time my uncle decided to have my cousin and me fence a large area for his horses--again the size of the field was daunting, and each post for the fence had to be dug using (what else) a post hole digger that was heavy, hard on the hands, and tedious work. Each post seemed like a personal challenge. And there were hundreds of them. But, post by post, we progressed until one day, we were done. At various times I remember looking and thinking, "we'll never finish this," but we did (and I got paid $2.00 an hour, before taxes, too--woo hoo!).

That is how I think about godliness. It is such a giant goal to reach, and even after all these years of walking with Christ, I feel like my obedience and efforts are so small, so feeble, and really don't seem to be accomplishing much. And yet, if I take to heart God's encouragement that he will complete what he has begun in us, and I believe that grace is at work in every step of progress I make, I can think of my progress as being like those back and forth strokes of the vacuum, those swings of the hoe, and the holes dug and posts placed. They add up. They move you forward. And while there are plenty of moments when you might look ahead and think, "I'll never get there," one day, by God's grace, you will.

Keep at it. Don't give up. Be faithful. Don't quit. Remember the old joke--"How do you eat an elephant?" Answer: "One bite at a time."