Last week we made cheese. How was it? I’ll let you know in March. Yes, for a nice sharp flavor, we’ll have to let it set until March.
It’s hard to imagine waiting that long to taste something we made. But waiting is only part of the challenge of making cheese the old-fashioned way. In our cheese-making efforts, we didn’t experience quite the same sacrifice and perseverance that were required of Laura and her family if they wanted to taste some cheese.
For one thing, with easy access to vegetable rennet, we didn’t have to kill a cow. That’s right, whenever Laura’s family wanted cheese they had to sacrifice the life of a cow, but not just any cow. A young calf had to be killed in order to extract rennet from his stomach lining. A calf that might have grown up to be a plough-pulling bull or a milk-producing cow. A calf that might have grown to father or mother more cows and/or provided a substantial amount of meat for the family. Certainly the decision to kill a calf for rennet was not lightly made. In order to enjoy some cheese, the family would have to close the door on other opportunities the calf might bring them.
So what kind of sacrifices do we make today? Well cheese is just about everywhere and not super expensive either. Even a minimum wage worker only trades in about half-an-hour of labor for a pound of cheese.
Speaking of labor, the cheese we made took us all day to make–and that was just the start. After making and molding it, we had to spend several days curing it–and then of course their’s the wait for several months until it is ready to enjoy.
As I’ve been reflecting on our cheese-making experience, I’ve wondered if this process didn’t teach our ancestors two character traits that we seem to struggle with so much today: sacrifice and perseverance. When we really think about it, nothing worthwhile is achieved without a little bit of both.
Want a successful marriage? You’ll have to sacrifice other relationships and even some of your own wants. Perhaps a you’ll pass on pet your spouse is allergic to or agree to a relocation that means leaving loved ones behind. You’ll have to persevere through the rough times, committed to making it through the long haul. But will it be worth it.
Want to be a successful parent? You’ll have to sacrifice your own time and freedom. You’ll spend money on things for your children that could otherwise go toward things you would want for yourself. You’ll choose your activities based on what the kids enjoy rather than what you’d really like to do (although if you’re like many parents, what your kids enjoy becomes what you’d like to do). And talk about perseverance, you won’t even know for a couple decades if all your efforts will pay off, but you’ll push through, recognizing that rough spots don’t mean you’re a failure. As your friends with older children will tell you, it will be worth it.
Want a successful career? You’ll have to sacrifice the time you could be pursuing your personal interests, and, in some cases, you may end up sacrificing relationships. (You may be faced with your own “baby cow or cheese” dilemma.) And you certainly won’t be able to measure your overall success by your first few steps. You’ll have to persevere, believing that sometime after the next 1,000 photocopies, your dream can be obtained.
Want a successful spiritual life? Oh yes, there’s sacrifice there too! The Bible tells us we may be called to sacrifice any or all of the things mentioned above to follow God’s will for our lives. And even if we are blessed with a balance of marriage, family, career, and spirituality, there are things the world chases after that we’ll sacrifice for the sake of growing closer to God. Yes, you’ll also have to persevere. You’ll persevere through those days when your doubts seem stronger then your faith, when you cannot seem to overcome that sin that you want so desperately to rid yourself of, when you cannot feel God’s goodness but you can only trust that what you know is true. But like everything above, no more so, it will be worth it.
And so, although I’ll probably never make cheese again (unless it tastes a lot better than I’m expecting), I’m a little sad that we seem to have lost something when we stopped making it ourselves. Sacrifice and perseverance are not the norm for our generation. Marriages are traded in for something of less value. Kids are left to be raised by media outlets. Workers bounce aimlessly from job to job, unsatisfied and unmotivated. And souls that were created for eternity trade their destiny in for cheep momentary pleasures.
We have sacrificed nothing. We have persevered through nothing. We have gained nothing. Pretty cheesy, don’t you think?