Forks and Obedience

(an oldie; one of my first)



            My dishwasher’s tune carries a strange rhythm this evening.  When I open the door mid-cycle, I forget, as usual, to stand back and my glasses steam up.  I wipe them off with a cotton towel and immediately see the problem:  a big plastic salad fork wedged under the rotary arm below the lower rack.  I pull it out, restart the dishwasher, and remember another fork, a long time ago.


            When I prepared for my first speaking engagement, I was terribly earnest, full of myself, and self-consciously humble.  “O God,” I prayed, “I am not worthy of this great privilege.  Who am I to break the Bread of Life to your people?  I need you to inspire every word I say.  Help me serve you honorably.”


            I waited before the Lord, expecting a vision of angels descending, bringing pearls of heavenly wisdom.  Instead, a mundane childhood memory unfolded in my mind, and with it, perspective.


            When my Dad told me to fill cattle troughs, I felt no special honor.  He was hardly a feminist, but Dad was ahead of his time, and never considered manual labor too strenuous for his daughter.  In my early teens, I hated the dirt and hard work on our desperately ordinary farm, and filling cattle troughs was high on my list of duties unsuitable for one so refined as I intended to become.  As I recalled details of the job, it was as if God asked me questions, and I supplied answers.


            “The ladder you climbed into the silo, was it yours?”

            “No.  Dad cut every board and pounded every nail.  It was my father’s ladder.”

            “The silo you climbed…was it yours?”

            “No.  Dad built the silo.  It was my Dad’s silo.”

            “And the silage…yours?”

            “No.  Dad planted the alfalfa, harvested it, and filled the silo with it.  He even invented a unique way to fill the silo.  The silage was my Dad’s for sure.”

            “Was the trough yours?  Did you own the cows?”

            “No.  My Dad built the trough and raised the cows from calves.  In fact, even the pitchfork in my hand was my Dad’s.”

            “And you?  Whose are you, and what is required of you?”

            “I am my Father’s, his own flesh and blood.  Obedience is my duty.  When my Dad told me to fill cattle troughs, it was my responsibility to use the strength of my body and a decision of my will to pitch silage until he gave me another job to do.”


            Perspective.  God is the owner of the cattle on a thousand hills.  We are His people, the sheep of his pasture.  When He calls us to feed His sheep, we don’t need to get grandiose ideas about who we are.  We belong to Him.  The “feed” is His Word, the sheep are His people, and even the gifts we use as we serve Him are gifts we’ve received from His hand.  Our obedience and joy are to use the strength of our bodies and the purposes of our wills in doing what He calls us to do until He shows us another way to serve Him.


Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord…It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.

(Col.3:23a; 24b NAS)

Elaine H. Soerens 4-26-91


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