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Thursday, July 02, 2020

Tough Love: When God Takes Out the Holy Chisel

My daughter Rachel Batson was telling me how tough her job is right now. Admittedly, her work is arduous, but I couldn't just placate. I had to tell her, "When I was your age {19}, at this time of the year, I was hand-weeding quarter-mile-long strawberry rows with the sun beating down upon my back."

We had a good laugh about it, but it got me thinking of how backbreaking that farm work really was. It wasn't just the weeding, but there was bailing straw, laying irrigation pipe, digging, pruning, etc. etc. Five years from my junior summer in high school to the fall of my junior year in college, I worked hard at the Darrow Berry Farm in Glen Dale, Maryland. 

Backbreaking work, but even if it were possible, I wouldn't go back and change a thing. If it hadn't been for that farm and that job, I might not have become a Christian as early in life. One early evening during Strawberry season, a friend who used to work with me at the farm came back to visit and pick some strawberries. Instead, he told me about Jesus.

If it hadn't been for that farm and that job, I wouldn't have met and married the love of my life Mary Lu Dovel Batson. If it hadn't been for that farm and that job, I wouldn't have made so many good life-long friends. I wouldn't have been in a heavy metal band. I wouldn't have led bible studies for 25+ years. The list goes on and on and on.

Please don't misunderstand, the work was HARD. It was relentless and hot, strenuous and mentally taxing. There were times out in the July heat, I thought I'd lose my mind. Once I almost started a fistfight with one of my best friends {I'm looking at you Warren Cramutola}. On the rare day off, I was in recovery. My neck hurt, my back ached, my knees were on fire, and I was sunburned to the point where, eventually, I'm sure I'll look more like a gator than a man.

In retrospect, however, I realize that it was hard work for a purpose. God had His fingerprints all over that time of my life and all over that arduous job. The experience reminds me of a couple of critically important Bible verses:

Romans 5:3-5
3 And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

God used the lever of hard physical labor to cause me to persevere, to build character, and yes, over the years to give me hope beyond hope. God wasn't finished, either. He was just warming up the holy chisel. Through parenting, married life, career issues, sickness, death, loss, depression, and even the pandemic, God has shown me who He is and how good He is. He has continued and still continues to chisel away at me for His glory and my ultimate great benefit.

Trials, stress, hardship—none of that is foreign to the human experience. Some of you reading right now are going through the aching, searing, trial of your lives. It's hard. It hurts...bad. It feels like it will never end and that there's no way God could ever use it for ultimate good. He can, and He will. Persevere. Look for Jesus in the midst of the pain. Ask Him to hold you, teach you, uplift, and recreate you. He will. Hey, he plucked me out of a freaking strawberry field. He can pick you up too. 
PS: Fuzzy and Denise Kurtz, wherever you are, thank you so much for working my teenage butt off! I miss you.