Blessed are all who fear the Lord,
who walk in obedience to him.
You will eat the fruit of your labor;
blessings and prosperity will be yours.
- Psalm 128:1-2
Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do.
- Deuteronomy 5:13-14
When you march up to attack a city, make its people an offer of peace. If they accept and open their gates, all the people in it shall be subject to forced labor and shall work for you.
- Deuteronomy 20:10-11
Before I ruminate over what labor to avoid, I have had a love-hate relationship with Labor Day my entire life. Oh, please, ruminate sounds too strenuous, let me think of a less strenuous word. Hmmmm. Think, think, think. Sorry, I am drawing a blank…
My teachers taught us that Labor Day was a day off from our labors to celebrate laboring the rest of the year, along with labor reform (the eight-hour workday being the reason for the first celebration of Labor Day). My mother muttered under her breath that she would have a word with my teachers. Everything to her was a matter of the “sweat of the brow.” In fact, rather than having the fear that air conditioning caused all illnesses that ever existed, my mother probably shunned air conditioning to get the sweat on her brow just thinking about the glorious work she would make me do. The sweat of the brow defined life’s existence. Solomon had Ecclesiastes all wrong. Meaningless toil was the only thing, in my mother’s book, that had meaning.
Labor Day was a day to labor in my mother’s book. We winterized the house, although there were still many hot days in the summer left (with the windows sealed shut and the air conditioning turned off – think living in an oven). We awoke long before dawn. The screens were removed from all the windows. The windows were washed. The screens were washed, scrubbed with soap and water using a soft brush and then placed in the sun to dry before being moved to winter storage. The lawn was mowed. The house was detail cleaned – think toothbrush cleaning all the seams between walls, ceilings, and floors.
While on Saturday, I was allowed to watch one cartoon show, the extravaganza of cartoons on Labor Day was unseen, with the television turned off, meaning my Dad was not at home – having to watch his football games somewhere else, and leaving me to do my part of the cleaning and his. Bedtime would be late that night with school the next day.
When I was fourteen, I was vacuuming, moving furniture to clean every surface in the house, and I slipped and fell onto the vacuum cleaner. I injured my back. I limp due to a sciatic problem these days. But when it happened on Labor Day, my mother said, “Good! Now you know how it feels. Quit whining and get back to work!”
I was thinking what she had just said was why labor unions had been invented. But then, she slipped a disc in her back when she was eight-months pregnant with me, hoeing in the garden after being told to take it easy. The doctor did not know she was obsessive-compulsive about cleaning and hoeing. “Die, weed, die!!!!!”
Also, until about my fourteenth year, school started the day after Labor Day, moving to the Thursday or Friday before Labor Day in my high school years – now early August. Odd, more school and less education. I dreaded going back to school, so Labor Day was my last day of freedom – wasted, deep cleaning a corner of the house that was never seen since we always had the sofa covering that spot. Labor Day, for me, was a day of mourning with the thought of nine months of school approaching.
So, what labor will I avoid today? If someone does not cook, we don’t eat. That might get bad. I enjoy writing, so that is okay. I should probably at least get dressed. Hmmmm. Just thinking of all that, I am starting to get the “sweat of the brow.”
HAPPY LABOR DAY, and please, try to not do anything strenuous!
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.