Too often I speak with people who have some idyllic idea of what we call “homesteading.” They have images of vast gardens with neat rows of beautiful tomato and pepper plants, green beans and corn, cucumbers and squash, surrounded by a hedge of herbs and sunflowers. 

Off to the side there is the chicken yard, with a well-built coop harboring a delicious stash of fresh eggs. And look, there are goats frolicking in the field, right next to the neat and tidy pigs who are having conversations with clever spiders.

Umm, no. My chicken coop is made of scrap wood. The hens sometimes seem to lay eggs everywhere but the laying box. My fences are made of pallets and scrap wood. Pigs are dirty, smelly and determined to be covered in mud. Goats are constantly trying to figure out how to escape.

And while spiders are useful, they do not speak with the pigs. My garden is a constant battle against weeds, and while my tomato plants are big and beautiful, my peppers and green beans aren’t doing very well this year.

Homesteading is work. I always have more projects than hours in the day. Each season brings new challenges. Every day demands discipline.

I often see images of homesteading that hide the difficulties and the challenges. Rarely do you hear about the callouses on your hands, bug bites, sore muscles, barbed-wire scratches, tillers that won’t start, knives with dull blades and so many other frustrations.

Many times, I see the same thing happen in the efforts of evangelism. We want to paint an idealistic picture of what it means to follow Christ: “Come to Jesus and everything will be wonderful. Ever since I became a follower of Christ, my family has been ideal, my children are perfectly obedient, my job is amazing, I get every promotion, my finances have been abundant, my health is perfect, I am too blessed to be stressed, and I hardly have to lift a finger. Come join the club!”

I don’t think so.

Jesus made it clear that in this world we would have trouble. We eat by the sweat of the brow. And for the believer, we are called to suffer, even to die for the cause of Christ. We do not confess Jesus as Lord in order to receive the blessings of this life. We surrender to the Lordship of Christ because we are sinners in need of a Savior.

God calls us to Himself, and we respond by faith with repentance and baptism. We will suffer. Life still happens. But we have hope found in our salvation. We look to eternity, where every tear is wiped away, where there are no more sorrows or pain, where this benediction given by my homesteading hero Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm is fulfilled:

May all your carrots grow long and straight,

may the foxes be struck blind by your chickens,

may your friends and neighbors love cooking your food in their kitchens,

may the rains be gentle on your pastures,

may your fields grow with soil,

may your earthworms dance with celebration,

may the wind be always at your back,

your children rise up and call you blessed,

and may we all leave a better world than we found.

Denny Dillman is benevolence pastor at Southeast’s Blankenbaker Campus.