"...too lazy to plow..."
"A farmer too lazy to plow his fields at the right time will have nothing to harvest." (Proverbs 20:4)
This New Year's Day was a tough time to be a tugboat captain on the river. As I took this photo I only could imagine the frustration of the captain and pilot. They were fighting to keep their coal-laden barges on course in the channel as they plowed through the fierce winds and waves. I guess they knew their coal had to get to market so they struggled on instead of waiting out the storm. Sometimes life does present us with situations where our only recourse is to just plow right on through --- but do we?
When I hear about the "lazy farmer" in the Proverb at first I want to use that favorite teen phrase, "Well duh...." In other words, it seems like such a "no-brainer" to realize that if you don't plow your field and plant your crop there won't be any crops to harvest. Why would anyone need to say such a thing? Why would anyone have to be reminded of something that seems like the most basic common sense? Maybe it's because sometimes there are some who find themselves not "plowing their field" when they should be, knowing full well that their lack of action means there will be no "crops." Why would anyone not do something that they know later will cause them heartache, suffering, and misery? Hmm.... I guess they must be lazy...?
The writer of Proverbs is trying to point out that something must be wrong with a person who would intentionally neglect something while knowing it could mean life or death for their family. I think the writer's point is not to simply judge the person by calling them "lazy," but rather, to lift up alarm that something is dreadfully wrong and in need of attention. Maybe in those days the only word they had to describe such a person was, "lazy." Today I still hear that word used a lot, but in many if not most cases there is a better word -- "depressed."
Clinical depression can often look like "laziness." The person knows what they need to do, what they have to do, what they better do, but they just can't bring themselves to do it. Maybe they feel overwhelmed by difficult and even not so difficult tasks. Maybe they feel so fatigued that they can't pick themselves up and perform even simple things, let alone plow through a difficult life experience. When a person is not doing something they know will later result in more pain and suffering for them it means there really is something wrong. The writer of Proverbs is right about that. However, today I think we can give it a different name - "clinical depression," and hopefully point the person in the direction of the help they need so they eventually can get back to "plowing their field."
It is easy for us to judge the other and say, "They're just lazy." It requires more energy, insight, patience, and prayer for us instead to offer a moment of grace and wonder "why" the person might be struggling with something that seems so self-evident, necessary, important and common sense. That grace-filled moment when we resist the urge to judge and instead "wonder," might be the first step that person needs toward the healing and hope God has to offer for a fierce illness like depression.
I pray that God will help me "wonder" in a moment of grace and offer an invitation for healing instead of another helping of judgmental beating.
Blessings and Peace,
Pastor, Sand Hill United Methodist Church
Boaz, West Virginia
Help save lives! For more information on my new book, "A Relentless Hope: Surviving the Storm of Teen Depression," visit www.survivingteendepression.com.
Check out my new video, "Teens Surviving the Storm"
"...too lazy to plow..."