Last Thursday, a week ago, I bought a cherry pitter. Having no reason to suspect that cherries might be on sale this week (but of course they would be, it's nearly August), I find myself more prepared for the laborious task of pitting six pounds of the burgundy orbs.
Friends laugh at me for the lack of gadgets in our home, but if I had to go another season using a cheap paring knife, my fingernail, and a whole afternoon to pit cherries just so we can have cherry pie in January...well, that wasn't going to happen. It's a small tool, not electric, not even the size of a garlic press or a can opener. I've already pitted a pound and it took me a quarter of the time. But it still took time. "Just buy a can of cherry filling," you might say, "or at the very worst, a bag of frozen cherries. There's souls to be saved, work that needs to be done, and you're standing there pitting cherries?"
Yes. Yes I am.
Nate and I took the long way home from dinner on Tuesday night, through the bit of countryside still mostly untouched by the creeping metroplex of Dallas and Fort Worth. I forget what the subject was exactly, but he lamented the amount of time people have these days. Everything is mechanized and technologized and passive income is all the rage and it leaves so much more time for folks to spend their days reading theology or politics and commenting on every single issue whether they have suffered or worked or lived much at all. Everyone considers themselves an expert because they read about it in a book or a blog or listened to a podcast where people purported to be experts because they read about it in a book or a blog or they, too, are podcast listeners. We are a society of commentators, each one of us abridging, abutting, amending, or simply adding our own two cents to every issue under the sun.
That's why I've taken so long to buy a cherry pitter.
I need my hands to be busy with real work—not just mind work. Mind work is good work too, I won't argue that, and technological advances are things of beauty (the attributes of God as creator at work), but when everything exists to make our lives easier, faster, more automated, and less work, well, what else is there to do but commentate? We become merely observers of life and not partakers in it.
Whenever I feel a tinge of shame creeping in because I eschew Fast and New and Quick and its accompanying accusation that while I stand there pitting cherries for four hours, there's gospel work I could be doing instead, I want to remember that pitting cherries is gospel work. It might not be the kind we raise support for or throw neighborhood parties for or write pamphlets for or send our kids overseas for, but it is still producing in me (and, I'd argue, in those who partake January's cherry pie at our table) something good. It is keeping me away from the commentary, the blurring lines of experts, the pundits, armchair preachers, and seminarians who think because they know how to pronounce Barth and have read the entirety of City of God, they know anything about real life.
If you hear a note of sadness (or its stinging cousin disgust), it's very real. I am saddened by how much everyone is an expert in their field, but how little they know of real work in real fields. "Stay in your lane," is the most lamentable phrase to enter Christianity. God has made us infinitely complex and we squeeze all of that complexity into one thing and call it a calling. But we need to feel the soil in our fingers and the pop of a cherry being pitted and to learn how to make a proper bed and the frustration of a weed that overtakes our garden and the stinging loss of life and the relief that comes from learning something works not because we read about it but because we tried it and failed miserably—or, glory be, succeeded. We need the whole gamut of work and rest and the exercise of our mind that comes from learning new laborious skills with our hands, and the exercise of our bodies that comes not from getting in a run, but waking early and feeling its limitations, its mutations, and its inability to be perfected.
I hope my disgust moves along quickly and is replaced by wisdom, but I am weary of the commentary and I hope, I hope, I hope you are too. I hope you turn off, unsubscribe, stop buying books, turn down the volume, and listen instead to the dandelion men, the poets, the sages, the ones who have suffered full lives and have earned the right to commentate on what they have seen and known. I hope you will live an examined life of your own, and not just spend it examining the lives of others.
I hope you'll buy a cherry pitter too, just for the act of slowing, stopping, and feeling the ripe, red flesh in your fingers for a few hours, the juice that pools on your raw pine tabletop. I hope, for a minute, you'll remember you are dust and your thumb will get a cramp and your fingers will be stained and January will feel a long way off. I hope as you crack these red orbs, you're reminded of how a few weeks ago your body was cracked open and blood was shed, and how a few millennia ago your Savior's body was too. I hope you run out of time and don't have enough to spend one blessed moment pontificating on your silly blog about how much time people have these days. If you don't, it's okay. I'm grateful I mostly did.
*Just to be clear: you don't have to pit your own cherries: perhaps you're raising little ones, or managing a garden of your own, or engaged in some other act that takes time and doesn't result in much praise or notice or a strong, consistent feeling of accomplishment. This is what I'm talking about. Abstain from the glut of information and commentary on it and just, you know, do something.