I grew up in central Florida. Where heat shimmers in waves above the asphalt, where afternoon thunder storms with more electricity in them than the entire population of Texas uses in a year (or so it seemed anyway) is the norm, and where of course, Mickey Mouse brings hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. Not to be misunderstood though, Mickey and I were not BFFs in my childhood years. My family actually lived well outside the ring of glitzy entertainment, down a dirt road, in a double wide trailer, on the back side of a cactus nursery. The “cactus farm”, as my friends dubbed it, was a family owned and operated business passed down from my Grandpa. Cacti were the means of financing our food, shelter, and education, and we kids were expected to take the growing of them as seriously as the adults.
I started my employment opportunities as a six year old pulling weeds on Saturday mornings. If I worked hard, when the break bell rang at 9:30 a.m, I could have a chocolate donut. I felt very well treated and fully satisfied with this arrangement. (Undoubtedly this is where all my current addictions to chocolate began. No sacrifice can really be too much, right?) I learned to tally up customer’s orders, and charge sales tax as a third grader. I learned to drive a tractor at thirteen (never mind the fences that bore permanent marks of my driving skills). By fifteen, any personal financial expense, except for education, was my responsibility. Cacti are unforgiving, hateful little creatures. Florida heat is stifling. The combination of these two things in a humid greenhouse takes misery to an entirely new level. The summer vacation filled with eight hour work days seemed to stretch to eternity and beyond for a school aged kid. My sympathy is somewhat lacking for two little girls (who shall not be named) living with me who deeply feel the unjust cruelty of a mother who makes them occasionaly weed a flower bed for an hour or so. Poor darlings.
I learned something tremendously important somewhere in-between checking my watch for quitting time, swatting flies, and shoveling soil from a wheelbarrow while soaking with sweat. I learned you can hate what you live or you can own it. I learned if you can’t change what is around you, you can change. I learned that if you see what is as temporary business, the challenge of doing it well becomes attainable, and even attractive. My parents are good people, but today’s standards would question them incredulously. Where were my play dates, my socialization, my opportunities for exposure to the world? Where was my parent’s undying dedication to spend every second of their existence amusing me? I did not have television, a cell phone, or internet. How can a mind develop under such deprivations? Furthermore my parents did not seem to understand how sending an impressionable young girl off to drive herself to school in a work truck with a large green cactus painted on the side would expose her to ridicule and pity from her peers!
But, if that young girl were say, a grown up women now with four children, suppose she had exchanged that truck with the large green cactus for a conspicuously handicapped child, suppose those long days in a greenhouse had been exchanged for long days in a hospital, suppose that the old challenge to “own it” was still looking her in the eye, she might say that her peers way back then might have actually been the ones missing out on the good life. For in the kindness of God, it pleased Him to allow me the opportunity to become a person complete in Him…not a product of circumstance, not a pawn of chance, not a helpless worshiper of the disappointments of life, not a slave to the next amusing thing which offers me an escape from reality.
As school starts again, I will have to beg my girls’ pardons, because I won’t be that mom. I won’t feel obligated to fill every free minute with amusement, I won’t feel the slightest bit guilty that they are the kid without the cell phone, I won’t be offended if they are not included with the cool kids, I won’t be taking sides against the teacher, and I won’t worship their achievements over the spirit in which they do them. When the blues hit, and the mean girls talk, and the days drag, I will be on the sidelines cheering for them to sweat it out, to own it, to not be a victim. I will cry with them, and pray with them, and high five a game well played, but I will not rescue them. One day I hope to see two women with grace and courage, living life well, fully complete in Christ, seeing life as the temporary business thing that it is. And I won’t be the mom that treats them like anything less than that right now.
Colossians 2:10 And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:
2 Corinthians 4:18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.