Let’s begin by saying: I love my washing machine. It’s fantastic. I put the clothes in, add some detergent, and 40 minutes later (or when I remember to check), they’re clean. This is far superior to pumping water into a large vessel and scraping the clothing across a metal board, nicking my knuckles and breaking a sweat. I love my washing machine because it makes my life easy.
Easy can be a good thing. I’m thrilled I don’t spend Wednesdays at a washing board.
Yet why do we believe easy is always the goal?
While discussing the new year and “new you” many people approach in January, my friend Trevor reminded us how challenging it is to make change. Basic physics reminds us that an object at rest remains at rest. The easiest thing you can do is stay the same.
My friend Wyatt reminded us nearly everything in our culture tries to convince us that easier equals better. We try to make washing machines out of everything. This is why George Takai has a job pointing out ridiculous user reviews on things like banana slicers. We think there has to be an easier way to do everything because easier is always better. We spend nearly as much time and energy concocting plans to make things easier rather than simply doing the work.
Under the belief that easy equals better is a belief that easy means you have time and energy to spend doing other things. I’m at my computer instead of a washboard. So this can be quite advantageous – until we run out of real things to do. Our culture worships the idea of easy because we feel so stressed and hurried that we can hardly get it all done. And when we finally get our ready-made dinners microwaved and bananas sliced and clothes tossed in the washer, what do we do with our time? I can only speak from the experience of my household, and it starts with the letter T. and ends with V. I don’t play with my children more when I don’t have to wash my clothes; I find ways to waste my otherwise precious time.
I think we’re restless looking for ease when we don’t accomplish anything meaningful. So we look for new ways of entertaining ourselves, which could be made even easier. You can take up knitting, and buy one of those rings so you don’t have to bother learning how to hold the needles. You can read a book and never have to turn a page. You can bake cookies but not bother making a dish dirty by simply slicing and baking. Even our leisure has fallen to the tyranny of the easy as opposed to simply enjoying the beauty of the work.
Work is not a bad thing. Perhaps your job isn’t great or you don’t like your boss, or the industrialization of everything makes your work monotonous and mundane. But that’s not the fault of work. We were created to be a part of something bigger than ourselves and I believe God gave us each a little corner of the world to care for and steward. Perhaps that’s a cause, a family, a piece of land or a tangible good that makes people’s lives better and brighter. At times, the work of caring for that corner might be hard. But it is also good.
My friend, as you embark on a new year with new goals, may you not find the easy way out. May you do the hard work now and reap the benefits of finding meaning in your success.