An important job on a farm is keeping fencerows clean. That is because otherwise, briars, wild roses and trees tend to grow there unchecked. There, they sap electricity from the wires, meaning that the entire fence is working at a lower capacity. It also means that there is a little less grass for the cows to eat. For both reasons, the farm becomes less efficient, and there is not a whole lot of wiggle room in the margins on most farms.
I love to clear fencerows on our farm. I love the challenge of regaining the ground from nature and helping our bottom line at the same time. I love to drive past our farm and see its beauty, and to me, clean fence lines show the world that the person living there takes pride in their property.
The only problem is, it takes hours to clear a fencerow and hours to maintain them. Then, it takes about five seconds for the weeds to start growing and undoing all of your progress.
My project the other day was a fence out behind the barn that hadn’t been touched in several years. (This estimate was made by judging the diameter of the tree that had grown up through the eight strands of high-tensile wire.) The multiflora roses were also taller than me and had trunk-like stems. Armed with a pair of tree loppers and a weed trimmer, we began the hours-long process.
About halfway down, my daughter cut a rosebush near its base. I was pulling on it, trying to free it from the wires. She grabbed another branch and began to pull. Her branch came free first, and when it spun around, one of the large thorns sunk into the back of my hand.
Now, I am no sissy. I can deal with a lot of pain – having three children by means of natural childbirth can act as my proof – so when I say that the pain was severe, I mean it. The knuckle of my index finger began to swell immediately. But after I whined for a few minutes and hollered at my daughter to please be more careful, we went back to work and finished near dark.
As I was lying in bed that night, remarking once again about how sore my hand was (an allergic reaction to the thorn had my hand swollen to the point that there was no depression between the first and second knuckle anymore), a different thought hit me.
As bad as the pain in my finger was, how bad would a thorn in the head have hurt? Especially one that was intentionally beaten into the flesh, as Jesus’ crown of thorns was? I can’t begin to imagine.
And yet, Jesus didn’t whine about it. He didn’t yell at his aggressors like I did my helper. He simply walked forward – toward more pain – to offer salvation to countless people (like me) who fail daily to show their gratitude for the sacrifice. He, who had never hurt anyone and certainly didn’t deserve the cruelty.
I’m not going to tell you that thinking about Jesus made my hand quit hurting, but it did put my pain into perspective for me. From that point on, when I wanted to whine, I refocused that energy. Instead, I said a small “thank you” for all the blessings in my life. I said thanks for my family and friends, my overall health, and having a good job. And, I didn’t forget that beautiful fencerow out behind the barn.
Laura Zoeller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.