By Alison Andreasen
“The Pasture” by Robert Frost
I’m going out to clean the pasture spring;
I’ll only stop to rake the leaves away
(And wait to watch the water clear, I may):
I sha’n’t be gone long.—You come too.
I’m going out to fetch the little calf
That’s standing by the mother. It’s so young,
It totters when she licks it with her tongue.
I sha’n’t be gone long.—You come too.
(1915, North of Boston)
This poem sounds like something I would hear coming from the mouths of many ranching fathers in my rural neck of the woods as calving season comes to a close. They invite their children, still with sleepy eyes and in pajamas, to put on boots and check on the cows. They instinctively call them to witness events together, work together, and learn together.
Is “together” a good thing? Any parent can tell you that chores around the house take twice as long when little ones are “helping.” Expect flour on the floor, grease on hands and dust bunnies left in corners. Together is laborious. Together is messy. Together is hard. A lot of people decide it is just easier to be apart. Even if families are in the same house at the same time, they may be doing different things.
Being apart is not inherently a bad thing. People need alone time. Doing different activities means you may have more things to share with your family when you are together. Introverts need quiet time in order to be fully present with their family. The problem, though, is that our current culture has lost our knowledge of the benefits of being together.
We are a segregated society--no longer by race or gender--but by age and work. This has been the case since the Industrial Revolution. Time that used to be spent helping with the family business is now spent hurrying to get everyone dressed and ready for a day that will be spent away from each other. Dads go work one place, moms another, and children who once attended schools with their siblings in one-room schoolhouses now spend their day with peers. When the family comes together in the evenings, the time is often interrupted by individual responsibilities or personal screens and entertainment. Even among parents who choose to stay home with their children, the mindset of segregation has continued.
Scripture gives us insight into a different way of living.
God the Father dwelt with His people in the Garden of Eden in “the cool of the day.” God the Son came to dwell with His people clothed in flesh and blood. Jesus ate with His people. He walked along the road with them. He mourned with them and He rejoiced with them. This Jesus also laid down His life for His people. Christians in the early Church spent time together living, breaking bread, and praying. God the Holy Spirit dwells in each and every believer until one day, when Jesus gathers us to Himself, we will be together. Forever. Because together is a good thing.
Here are a few benefits that encouraging togetherness gives:
· Doing things together gives us opportunity to speak about God to the next generation in a very organic and authentic way. “You shall therefore lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” (Deut. 11:18-19)
In order to do this, it logically follows that we should be sitting together, walking together, etc., to allow for these opportunities.
· Togetherness allows for our children to learn skills they might use in a future vocation. “Do you want to help me put the clothes in the washing machine?” “Do you want to help me bake some bread?” “Do you want to help me fix the lawn mower?” These invitations are the beginning of learning skills that will be of use to their families and neighbors in the future. They might also learn about skills they really enjoy doing and feel excited to improve those skills. We can encourage their newfound hobbies that give back to their families.
· Togetherness encourages shared memories and stories of family--both genetic and spiritual. As we match socks together, I can tell my children about their great-great-grandma who mended holes in her socks and put cardboard in the bottom of her shoes so her feet wouldn’t get wet. I also tell them about their brothers and sisters in Christ in other parts of the world who only have a few shirts to wear.
· Living life together also allows opportunities for meaningful discussions to take place. We can rejoice with each other. We can mourn with each other. We can encourage, confess, and forgive. I am sure we all can recall important conversations we’ve had while washing dishes with someone or fishing next to them. I remember a car ride in my childhood, most of which was spent in anguish as I built up the nerve to admit that I had lied. I am thankful for that long car ride and for the conversation that ensued.
· We can model things for our children when we spend time together. By being around people of all ages, children can learn from those more experienced than themselves about how to handle situations in a godly way, as well as be role models for those that are younger than themselves.
Living together as a family is good. Prioritizing and enjoying time together is good. When we fight against our culture’s extreme individualism by helping our children learn to work together as a unit instead of scatter to their own bedrooms, we are doing a good and vocational work. May you be encouraged that despite the tendencies of our culture, there are plenty of families striving toward the same goals.
Next time you need to clean the sink, perhaps you can find some toddlers to help you. An added bonus is that you will know exactly where those curious little ones are and what they are doing! May the Lord preserve, bless, and sustain us as we care for the neighbors under our roof--no matter how laborious, messy, joyful, and delightful the task may be.
Alison is a wife of one, mother of four, and teacher of many. She lives in rural South Dakota where she enjoys life on the prairie as a dual parish pastor’s wife. A trained Lutheran school teacher and homeschooling mom, she has a passion for children’s education, especially education in the Christian faith. She is a brainstormer by nature and those who are close to her never know what new idea she will think of next. Recent adventures with her family have included tapping trees to make syrup; creating, expanding, and selling her own granola business; and learning to preserve fresh garden goodness for year-round use.