Back to School, Routine, and Cows

Salvation, that over-familiar and often dry term, is actually the brilliant and thrilling goal of all human existence. It is not the default end to a boring, deprived, and unadventurous ‘Christian’ life, as many of us fear deep down. Salvation is the process that began its effect on us at the moment of our conception and culminates at our death in the condition of our eternal existence.

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“The man of understanding and knowledge maintains order.”

Proverbs 28:2

A person was talking with an old dairyman one day and became intrigued with the regularity and order with which everything was done. The cows were milked at the same times every day, following an exact method of handling the cow, prepping, using and cleaning the equipment, cooling and storing the milk, and keeping the cows happy and healthy—a systematic routine all day long. To the observer, it seemed a rigorous and regimented existence. “Wow,” the person observed, “all this work must be really hard!” A shadow of humor flitted across the old dairyman’s face. “No, sir,” he stated plainly, “the hardest thing about milking cows is that they never stay milked.”

Nowadays, it’s hard to see the rich spiritual lesson offered by the dairyman. There’s just not a whole lot of activities in our lives that acclimate us to the reality that success, whether spiritual or material, is achieved mainly by a long progression of doing the same fundamental things over and over again in order to achieve the goal for which we long. Sometimes we even forget that there are goals! Much less do we have goals that are so dear to us that we long for them, we desire, and burn, and ache to achieve them. We must regain our depth of vision and see past the next paycheck, the next diversion, the next purchase, the next opportunity to console and pamper ourselves.

Salvation, that over-familiar and often dry term, is actually the brilliant and thrilling goal of all human existence. It is not the default end to a boring, deprived, and unadventurous ‘Christian’ life, as many of us fear deep down. Salvation is the process that began its effect on us at the moment of our conception and culminates at our death in the condition of our eternal existence. Remember, we will all exist eternally. But the condition of our existence is determined by our embracing or rejecting the process of salvation—by embracing or rejecting our Savior, Jesus Christ, who offers salvation to each and every one of us personally.

And as the dairyman has informed us with great subtlety, our goal is not achieved by any single act but by a long progression of repeated fundamentals. We are not saved by asking Christ into our lives once, or praying once, or resisting sin once, or going to church once, or forgiving, loving, repenting, confessing, sacrificing, practicing obedience, communing, reading Scripture, visiting a monastery, circling our prayer rope, or going on pilgrimage just once. Nor are we saved by doing these things a thousand times. We are saved by committing ourselves to Christ and to living a Christian life until the very end—until our last breath. “He who endures to the end will be saved” (Matt. 10:22 & 24:13).

And as to the work being hard? So what! “We rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope; and hope does not fail” (Romans 5:3). Orthodox Christians are to be filled with unconditional love, patience, and kindness, bearing all things, trusting, hoping, enduring, and never giving up. We are to be like the proverbial farmer: gentle, thoughtful, and neighborly, but tough as nails.

So with the end of summer and the start of school, whether these events affect us all directly or not, take time in this season to organize your routine around spiritual health, wealth, and a treasury filled. We might not have cows to milk, but God in Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, longs for our salvation and awaits the opportunity to pour His grace upon us, to fill us with food that is ever-filling and drink that is ever-quenching. Ours is a holy dairy, and there is work to be done.

Let us not be double-minded, brothers and sisters. Let us not serve two masters. But let our lives, our work, our families, and our commitments be sanctified by the one goal of our salvation—and the salvation of those around us, with the help of Christ. For we know in our hearts that “the integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity” (Proverbs 11:3).

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