Monday, April 29, 2013

God and Farmers

I like the old timey farmers. They're not afraid to talk about death. They look me in the eye when they ask how I'm doing and they keep looking me in the eye until I've answered all the way through.

It's easy to answer an old timey farmer honestly because they get it. They have dealt with the cycle of loss on so many levels. They know what it's like to have sore, bloodied fingers from griping too tight on to something you can't control, and they know what it's like to finally let go and realize it's all God's doing - whether the crops will be plentiful or if floods will wash them away. That it's up to God to give the blessings and it's up to God to decide when we need a challenge to make us stronger. They understand that the only thing we can do is wake early and work hard late until the night, remembering to thank God Almighty for the seemingly tiny moments of grace He gives us throughout the day... because when you add up enough of those tiny graces you find you've got more than one person deserves.

Matt is not an old timey farmer. As much as I love him, he is not capable of knowing how to ask and what to ask and how to listen to the answer. He doesn't understand that sometimes the answer is as simple as chewing on the end of a wheat stem, looking far off into the setting sun for an uncomfortable amount of silence before emitting a low mmmm. He does not understand that in that moment of mmmm I hear:

Nothing we can really do about what God chooses except get back up in the morning and have another hard go at it. Gonna have to take the bad days because they all lead back to a good day, sooner or later, even if it seems to take too long by our own timing. God made all this earth here for us to enjoy and He gave us life to live while we're waiting to be called home and He don't want us sittin' around feeling sorry for ourselves when there's work to be done.

Because, to an old timey farmer, work means taking care of others. He works hard for his family and even harder for his God. He cuts through dirt so tough it'll break your back just so the neighbor down the road can have fresh vegetables on the table. He wakes before the sun and sweats throughout the hottest of the summers so some family he's never met two towns over can give milk to their twin daughters. On his day of rest he rises early to milk the cows before scrubbing his neck and heading off to church where he'll shake hands with people who have never held a shovel and he'll pray for their kids who are about to get married. And he won't tell you about the calf he just lost or the tractor that broke, because that just comes with the territory, he supposes.

And when he walks away towards his car that only gets driven on Sundays (or to the occasional funeral or wedding), we'll all shake our heads and wonder why he works so hard for a whole lot of little.

But the answer is simple: his heart is in his soil. He can no better extract his soul from the furrows of the fields than I can bring back Avery. He is living his Legend - regardless of what that means to those who look in from the sidelines. He is answering the call God placed in his heart. He is, for better and for worse, ploughing the fields, scraping the barn, filling the feed, stacking the hay, all to make this world a better place.

And when his calloused hands and sun wrinkled face reach out to ask me how I'm doing, I know he understands. Because God has led him through those losses, through those sleepless nights, through those pace-worn floorboards... and straight into me, on a random Monday afternoon to ask, "how've you been holding up?" in a way that speaks volumes about his character. In a way that tells me there are men with tired legs who have walked beside God and their eyes have seen what I have not. And, with the stillness I imagine God has, he waits patiently for my reply.