"The world is too much with us; late and soon
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers"
- William Wordsworth
As an English major I read a lot of poetry, most of which I don't remember, but these lines from the Wordsworth sonnet run frequently through my thoughts. Today was one of those days.
After writing yesterday about how making ends meet feels like a more daunting task than usual right now, I spent today paying dental bills (and getting the "good faith estimate" for the extraction of four teenage wisdom teeth times two), confronting the expiration of the Social Security tax cut (Who knew?), and wondering what became of the sixty odd dollars in cash I lost track of in the past month.
Alongside my personal financial angst, I got word that our CSA ("Community Supported Agriculture" for the uninitiated) farm, the place that taught us to love (okay, appreciate) kale and the wholesomeness of eggs from pastured hens, has filed for bankruptcy.
"Mom," said my teenage daughter, "does your tax bill make you think you should have voted differently?"
I will confess to a new-found level of awareness, and attendant horror, at the bite Uncle Sam is taking from my husband's take-home pay. I will further suggest that what the federal government needs to tidy up its own financial house is to employ some mom who is accustomed to juggling the costs of organic food, choir fees, piano lessons, a mortgage, and fuel for the mini-van. (I see that I am qualified, but I'm sure the job wouldn't pay enough to compensate for the aggravation.)
I know very well that my woes are "rich girl problems." I have never -- nor, God-willing, will I ever -- worry about feeding my children, keeping a roof over their heads, or accessing medical care if they become injured or ill. And I am, truly, grateful.
But today I feel tired. I'm tired of the world as it is. It's too much work. It lays waste our powers.
I know a fair number of Christians who, along with their counterparts on the KLOVE hit list, talk in heartfelt and well-meaning ways about how this world is "not our home." They imagine, if I understand them correctly, that Christianity is a great escape plan from this wearying place, a one-way pass to a place called "heaven." That's not how John puts it in his Revelation. In the first verse of chapter 21, he says,
"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more..."New heaven and new earth. Not, allow me to emphasize, "We're blowing this popsicle stand called 'earth,' and moving our operation to heaven." No. John continues, in verse 5:
"And the one who was seated on the throne said, 'See, I am making all things new.' Also he said, 'Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.'”All things new. New heaven and new earth. Here's what else is trustworthy and true:
"Now if anyone builds on the foundation [that is, Jesus Christ; see v. 12] with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done. If what has been built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a reward. If the work is burned up, the builder will suffer loss; the builder will be saved, but only as through fire." (1 Corinthians 3:12-15)When the day comes, the day when God finally -- finally -- makes all things new, we'll see what has already been made new. There are things that we're doing and building, here and now, that constitute the first fruits of the new earth. We're not leaving it all behind. We're taking some of it -- the good stuff -- along with us.
There are things I'll be glad to leave, and not just the tax bill. I'll be relieved to be done with the violence that tempts my sons and the pressure to perform that tempts my daughter and the pride that tempts me. I won't miss the endless tasks and worries, the getting and spending, the wood and hay and straw.
But let's not wish it all away. What about the gold and silver and precious stones that are all around us? What about the good jokes and the chocolate cake and the warm blankets and the stories that touch our hearts and the pillow talk and the hope and the love?
It ever bears repeating:
"So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love." (1 Corinthians 13:13)And that is trustworthy and true.