For the last few months, I have been thinking about my life in terms of being a producer and a consumer. Let me explain.
Politically, Donald Trump made this idea (without using this exact language) front and center in minds and hearts. He emphasizes American businesses that produce, that manufacture new products, as he seeks to undo systems that aid those some see as consumers, those who only use resources while being unable, often physically, from producing.
Locally, I live on a farm with a lot of producers. The farm here epitomizes the concept of production. The farmer plants a seed in the ground, and it grows into a tall stalk of corn, producing food for livestock that then ends up in our grocery stores and restaurants, or a peanut plant, which ends up in the peanut butter on our grocery store shelf. Folks here drive out in their pick up trucks at 7:30 am, work a hard day tending the ground, and come back in the evenings to turn off equipment and settle in for the night. They consume resources, but they produce much more than they consume. Nations can’t survive without producers. Our government subsidizes farms in particular because, in time of war, we can not be solely dependent on a foreign nation for our food. If nothing else, in World War 3, the United States will still have some cotton to make clothes, peanuts to make peanut butter, and corn to feed the cows, in part due to the labor of folks around me at Oak Lane Farm.
I don’t know if others experiencing long term illness think about this, but I have become consumed with the producers around me as I sit on my couch into week 3 of recovery from surgery, now contemplating another 6 months of chemotherapy, which will include a lot more sitting on my couch watching the rest of the world go by. I consume resources, particularly the time of others who already have busy lives. But right now, I don’t produce anything.
In times past as a stay at home mom, I had a few things that, along with parenting my children, helped me feel … well … productive. I taught Bible studies, I wrote books, and I taught part time at the community college. If nothing else, I produced some income for my home, and that helped me feel like I was a contributing member of society (another political phrase I think about).
Being a non-producing consumer for this season has raised my awareness of others struggling with long term disability. I have one friend in particular confined to a wheel chair with multiple physical issues who still struggles to produce. He writes. He creates art. His God-given desire to create remains in his heart though his physical and financial resources are slim. He is often thwarted in his attempts to get something to market, and yet the creative, productive urge remains, and he never quits trying.
I got the news yesterday that I would have six months of chemo, with all the ins and outs that usually accompany that. I have a good prognosis long term, for which I thank God, but I wept in the doctor’s office as I contemplated six more months consumed with doctors appointments and physical struggle, six more months of being a consumer unable to produce. Despite all of the down time, I can’t even write very well. My brain remains slow and fuzzy and overwhelmed. And chemo brain is a real thing I hear. Maybe I will be pleasantly surprised, but I have low expectations for productivity the next six months (other than the occasional blog article).
I am tired of consuming resources. I simply want to produce.
I want to show up with resources to help my son’s public school marching band. I want to put together a women’s Bible study for our local new PCA church plant. I want to take my dad to doctor’s appointments. I want to write another book. I want to teach at the community college. I want to learn to manage the farm.
Yesterday, after returning from my appointment with my oncologist, I sat down with the Lord to read the next passage in my Bible, John 15:1-8. I am reading from the new Christian Standard Bible. Verse 2 struck me loud and clear.
I noted the word produce, because that is the language that has been rattling around in my head for weeks. I want to produce more and consume less. I want to help more and need help less. But God spoke clearly to me. If I am going to produce more fruit, I have to submit to more pruning. There was something sweet and kind, though also pointed and confrontational, as God used the language in my head to remind me of this truth from Scripture. I have felt that God was far away from me at multiple points in this journey, but He again showed me that He is right here, well acquainted with my suffering and mental struggle, and indwelling me to aid me through it. He is aware of the battles in my head and spoke to me clearly to confront them. My Counselor. My Comforter. My Helper.
I got the message, Lord, and I thank You for it. I will buck it up, by God’s help, and do this thing. I will submit to more pruning, because it is necessary for producing more fruit, fruit that remains. That’s the best kind of producing and the best kind of fruit. I want it for my life, and I submit to Your process to do it. Apart from You, I can do nothing.
Is this the fruit of the Spirit? I trust I will grow in love, joy, peace, and longsuffering. I need it. Is this the fruit of discipleship? I hope I can help more women grow in a knowledge of Jesus that leads to their flourishing in His kingdom. Whatever form the fruit takes, I know that pruning is the path to it, hand in hand with the One who prunes.
If you are struggling today, I encourage you to sit down with a short passage of Scripture wherever your Bible reading has taken you. Read it slowly several times, asking God to open your eyes to behold wonderful things in His word (Psalm 119:18). Slow down, remove distractions, and give Him time to speak to you clearly through His words. Hear Him, and be comforted.