Tobacconist Theology, Part Two: Work and Rest

"God saw all that he had made, and it was very good . . . By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done." -- Genesis 1:31, 2:2-3

Many people, and I am often one of them, believe work itself is a curse. But it’s not. Adam and Eve, by all indications, worked in the garden before the Fall. The curse of their sin, in relation to their efforts, was that work was (and is now) done “through painful toil" and by "the sweat of the brow.” (Similarly, we don’t think of childbirth itself as a curse. But the pain accompanying it certainly is.)

Work is a good thing. But so is rest.
And the way God has set up the world to work is that we can’t have one without the other, and the latter must be earned.
Six days of work. And on the seventh, rest.

The Sabbath rest isn’t just meant as a recovery period, a way to recuperate from the week’s effort (although it is that, no doubt). No, the Sabbath is also meant as a day to reflect on our work and our life, to declare it (and the God who commissions it) “good.” The Sabbath is for our enjoyment as much as it is for our recuperation. But, again, the rest cannot be properly enjoyed until the rest has been earned.

Lots of time and work goes into the creation of a single fine cigar.
Aside from the consideration of ideal conditions, the entire planting, growing, harvesting, curing, and other preparing can take several years.
And then the rolling. Good cigar rollers in the best factories have really made this part of the creation of a stogie into an art. Roll the cigar too loose, and the cigar will fall apart, lose its filler. Roll the cigar too tight, and it may not “breathe” properly, which means it may not burn right or it may dry out too quickly or it may not allow a good draw from the smoker’s lips. An unevenly rolled cigar may burn unevenly, and any serious cigar smoker can attest to how frustrating the ashy “overbite” an uneven cigar can be.

Cigars are a luxury, no doubt. They are a gift and a reward. They are things to be enjoyed (in moderation, naturally). But for the gift, reward, and enjoyment of a cigar to approximate perfection, lots of work must precede.

So rest and enjoyment must be earned, and therefore preceded, by work.
But it’s possible to work too much. It’s possible to work so hard that rest is neither restful nor enjoyable. (It’s also possible to negate real rest by working for the wrong things or for the wrong reasons.)
Sometimes when we are working too hard, we take our Sabbath begrudgingly, and consequently it is not enjoyable as it should be.
Sometimes when we are working too hard, we forget to take our Sabbath altogether, and rest is eventually forced upon us, and consequently is it not as restful as it should be.

Several years ago, when we were making our move from an apartment to our first home, we were trying to achieve the benefit of a loophole in our apartment lease by moving out in two days so that another family could move in. At the same time, I was studying for finals and working at a bookstore. We both worked to our limits for those two days, barely eating and not really sleeping. When we had finally moved the last box into the house early in the morning of the day we were to be out of the apartment, I went straight to work.
Five minutes after arriving, I went into shock and collapsed on the bookstore salesfloor.
My mentor-pastor Mike Ayers, after hearing about this incident, told me that sometimes our bodies force us to Sabbath. I had worked too hard without taking an enjoyable rest, and I was forced into a rest that was neither enjoyable nor restful.

On the flip side, it’s possible to take rest we haven’t earned. I do this every time I try to create an ideal scenario of sitting out on the deck to smoke a cigar in the cool weather. The activity rarely lives up to the feeling the idea conjures up beforehand. I tried this a few times when I was in Houston. When the rain would come, and when I had available time, I would go out onto my in-laws’ covered porch with a book and a stogie. Every time I found myself impatient with how long it was taking to “finish up.” I couldn’t for some reason just sit there and enjoy the cigar and the rest it symbolizes.
Because I was on vacation. I was already resting. The added rest of the “cigar on the porch” getaway wasn’t earned. It was indulgent.

Laziness is just unearned rest.

But on the flip side of that, I have found the “cigar on the porch” getaway most enjoyable and restful after an extraordinarily long week, and especially after I have spent several hours working in the yard. After mowing, trimming, pulling weeds, watering plants, and blowing off the driveway and sidewalk, it is nice to sit back with a glass of iced tea and a nice little cigar and just look at the work I’ve finished.
That is rest I’ve earned. And that I’ve incorporated looking out on the good results of the cleaned, manicured lawn is probably the primary reason why this rest is better. Because the rest is for reflecting on the fruits of my labor and enjoying the rest that has been earned.

There is even work that goes into the rest itself!
If my deck is cluttered or dirty, finding rest there is not really possible.
And my biggest problem, cigar-wise, is keeping my humidor maintained. Proper cigar storage involves a quality humidor (preferably lined with cedar, preferably Spanish cedar) in which one must maintain the proper temperature and proper humidity.
My problem is that I sometimes let weeks go by without refilling the humidifier, so by the time I’m ready to enjoy a cigar, it’s too dry to really be worth it.

I am fortunate to have received, over the last two weeks, five cigars from a place Americans aren’t supposed to have cigars from. Nevertheless, three different parties were kind enough to bless me with these much-sought-after treasures. For years after dabbling in stogies, I wondered if a C____ cigar really was worth all the hype. (It is, by the way.) And I always assumed I’d never be able to find out. C____ cigars are for the wealthy or the privileged (or for those living overseas ;-). Now I have four resting side by side in my best humidor. (I smoked one in Houston.) I have been tempted lately to smoke them “just because.” Because smoking a C____ cigar has a certain cache all in itself.

But I haven’t earned it yet. I’m saving them for when I complete various stages in the novel. And until then, I am having to remember to keep an eye on the humidor, so that when the time comes, the enjoyment of them will be worth the wait, worth that delayed gratification.

Before Grace was up this morning, I managed to get a load of dishes in the washer, put some clothes away, take out the trash, edit a chapter in my novel, help Macy put a puzzle together, and eat breakfast.
After I’d gotten Grace out of bed, I felt like it was time to just sit in my chair for a few minutes and watch the girls play. A song came on “Sesame Street” that encouraged them to dance, and both of them responded by twirling, whirling, and shimmy-shaking around the living room. It was a glorious sight, and I was able to watch them with pride and wonder, enjoying the work that has gone into raising two beautiful, joyful children.For some reason, I don’t think I would have enjoyed that sight quite so much if I hadn’t done some of that work before Grace was up. It didn’t take me all that long to accomplish what I did this morning, but in doing it, I felt as though I earned the enjoyment of the rest that resulted.

All of the good things God has given us, whether things we consider necessary or unnecessary (e.g. children or cigars), he has given as fruits of our labor. They are blessings nonetheless and reminders that there is no fruit without that labor.
Sometimes the fruit is itself a labor (e.g.children!), but that is only because work is good and rest must be earned. The former is not a curse. And the latter is not a vice.

(And of course the end of curse and vice is the risen Christ, the firstfruit of our future resurrection and the perfect rest from our toil and His own good work.)

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." -- Matthew 11:28

(The lady in the image at top is a Cuban cigar roller. She appears to be enjoying her work. ;-)