My parents being Czech and hard working, I grew up in an environment where 2nd best was unacceptable and hard work and some great success was expected, otherwise one was nothing. This carried with me, and I found myself always striving for some great goal, when I hoped I would feel satisfied that I had attained something. During summers in between university, with every tree I pounded into the ground I felt I was a step closer to attaining some goal – at that time to help pay for university and to save up for another stereo component for my planned fantastic stereo system. In tree planting, you are allowed 7% error, meaning 7% of your trees can fail, to anticipate for human error. I became very good at utilising this "buffer zone" to add that notch to speed, and hence to earnings, as treeplanting is paid by piece work. There were also many rules to follow, such as minimum distance between trees, depth in ground, the minimum amount of surface debris which should be removed so the sun could heat up the soil around the planted trees and increase their chance of survival. And each of these requirements I learned to satisfy at an absolute marginal level, to streamline my movements and maximise the number of trees I could get into the ground that day – always with my goals in my mind, like a carrot hanging before the donkey. It became a daily obsession, always writing down my numbers at the end of each day into my little accounting book. I even saw some of the other fast translators relieving their bowels while walking to the stash, where they would frantically bag up for another two hour session, eating their sandwich while they scurried off with another full load of trees. Once I found myself almost collapsing (and others did), because the heat of the sun got to my head, and when I finally did stop just before fainting, I heard very loudly how my blood was pulsating around my ears. Apparently I had become so involved in making money that I did not notice anything else around me.
My last long summer of treeplanting I spent saving up money for my big move to the Czech Republic, where I hoped to become successful as an entrepreneur. And once again I was locked in an ambitious frenzy, working long hard hours towards that new goal.
But in the Czech Republic, freshly out of the twisted bureaucratic remains of communism, all my achievements were severely hampered. Everything took so long to achieve, that I often felt I was trying to run while standing in water up to my shoulders. It was immensely frustrating, but on I ploughed in my endeavours.
Until many years later, it seemed that I finally gave up. I had not amassed my millions, I was not sitting on a great empire that I built up from my own bare hands, and I was not overlooking and wielding the great kingdom I hoped to. But on giving up, I found a new peace I had always lacked. I still hope to do good, but instead of working in some heated frenzy always striving for some great goal ahead (for after all, "the people's labor is only fuel for the file" - Habbakuk 2:13), I now find satisfaction with everything I do. No longer is the carrot dangling madly before me, while I trudge endlessly forward through the mud and obstacles around me, but I sit contentedly in a meadow of flowers, nibbling peacefully on my carrot like a satisfied little rabbit while going about doing God’s honest work at a pace which seems much healthier and in line with how God would want it.
I now see how many people around me seem to go about their lives in this same feverish manner, always striving for some goal which they hope to attain in the future, some pasture they hope to arrive at when they will finally be content and happy. And I realise that my hungry ambitions have always prevented me from being contented. I was always fidgeting and nervous with dissatisfaction. Always on the edge of my seat, trying to get "there" as soon as possible, and almost too busy to fully enjoy the moment, and take a few minutes to smell the flowers.
Now I know we live a limited life on this planet and that it is good to be industrious, and apostle Paul does speak of running the race, but not at the expense of losing grip on the moment. Paul worked hard for the glory of God, but not with some feverish personal ambition to save souls like the number of trees I pounded into the ground – like some goal to satisfy God, reach some quota and earn an honourable seat in heaven. But because he was concerned for the souls of men and wanted to sacrifice his soul and flesh to serve God in every MOMENT. He was living, working and reaping his earthly rewards at every moment, giving up his life and born every new day.
If I will have my empire and great achievements one day, I will let them come when God chooses me to have them. Many times I have felt that it was God who opened the floodgates so that I would be forced to wade through water up to my shoulders, to hamper my earthly ambitions because he felt I was not yet ready to wield any power or riches – because my pride would get the better of me. Otherwise, it was simply uncanny, considering all my hard work, my skills and intellect, and my faith in God, that I should be so long smouldering in the doldrums of lack of success. God’s hand must have been working against my ambitions.
So now I find contentedness in the work of my hands, as God would have it according to Ecclesiastics 5:18. I work towards doing greater good, while enjoying the moment, and taking what time I can afford to smell the flowers. Now, if I were to go back treeplanting, I would still streamline my movements to achieve the high numbers, but I would not utilise the 7% of allowable error but rather plant each tree with love, thinking of the good I am doing at that moment, and how that tree will grow up great one day, house many happy birds, and feed oxygen to the world around it. I would find satisfaction with the good and honest work I was doing, yet continue to work hard for the greater good of everyone around me, and be satisfied at the moment, and at the end of my hard working day.
This is how I feel God would like us to go about our daily lives. Not hustling and bustling from one metro stop to another like busy ants running feverishly in pursuit of some happy goal in the future, but finding peace and contentedness with the work of our hands at the moment, and always taking the time to slow down and smell the flowers when time is afforded to us. The "there" many of us shoot for, be it a two week vacation lying on a beach, early or any retirement, or some success and glory in the future, is actually here if we have the right frame of mind. And balance our priorities correctly.
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