The 1 Habit We Can’t Afford to Forget
It’s after the Farmer checks over the combine that I crawl in the cab, in beside him in that ratty old t-shirt.
Something about a man who wears his work with no shame.
“Ride a few rounds with me?”
The engine’s drowning out that quiet voice of his.
I sit closer, my shoulder pressing against his.
His dirt-lined hands man that steering wheel around and he turns the combine around into the light, into that field of soybeans east of the bank barn.
The field rattles with dry pods, rattles like a stirring of the dry bones, and hope, it can split right open in the dry places and yield up life.
Shalom, she sits at my feet on the floor of the combine cab. “What’s the moisture, Dad? Are they dry enough?”
She asks it in her deep “I’ve got 4 brothers and I listen to these farm conversations” voice. She crinkles the freckles of her nose all smart, waiting on her daddy to dish her the beans about the beans. The Farmer grins.
“Should have been here sooner, really.” The Farmer glances up from his steering wheel toward the numbers on the monitor. “They’re running a bit too dry. Closer to 14% moisture would have been better… they are more than ready.” He bends again over the steer wheel.
Yesterday, the number on the thermometer said he’d had a fever of 102. Shalom pats his knee, the ragamuffin child comforting her daddy like a mama…
And hunched over a steering wheel, over the beans feeding into that combine reel, he talks of teenagers and the barn and feeding sows and what would God have for us.
And I talk of boys’ bathrooms and reeking socks and choir schedules and new homeschool routines and I sit there with a camera in my lap and nothing framed at all, and I start to feel this pressure build, all the things I need to clean and cross off the list. And sitting there beside him in the combine cab, us both watching out the window, watching the pods shell open and the harvest of beans roll in, all my insides pacing like this tomcat caged and I half howl:
“I really should go do something.”
And the man turns away from the harvest and the Farmer says to his wife:
“Being with me is always doing something — the right thing.”
The pig farmer’s wife, she nods sheepish, and I lay my hand on the knee of his threadbare jeans and his one hand lets go of the steering wheel to find mine.
It’s in the settled space of just being that it comes.
Like a pod breaking into an answer, right there in the middle of harvest.
“I told Moses that I’d fast and pray.”
The shelled beans are filling the bin behind us, and it sounds like a rain, all these round nuggets of gold.
“You know that Haitian man who I asked if he could get out of Haiti, all that poverty? And he was the one who turned to look me right in the eye, who said, “I’m Moses. I do not leave my kin.” That man.”
Now, just today, someone had written me with a project in Haiti that perhaps we could help with…
The Farmer slows down at the end of the field, turns on the headland for another pass. Levi’s crawled up high on the combine platform beside us.
“But you know how it goes.” I’m watching Levi watching the beans, looking out across the field, his face straight into wind.
“How do you know how to best invest your life? How do you know what’s wisest and where’s wisest and who’s neediest and is any of this even the point?”
The Farmer glances quick behind his shoulder to see that the stream of beans are still running in the bin, that the harvest is still coming. I keep going:
“And not an hour after I had said it out loud, that I’d told Moses I would pray about Haiti and if and how and when of the helping… I get this parable sent to me by a friend who found it buried 2 years deep in the internet – this parable about Americans finding a pile of rubble and hearing Haitians crying from under the rubble.”
I’m shaking my head. Why do I ever doubt that God hears and starts coming before you even cry out?
“So in this parable, the Christians start digging. And after several hours, they get out three Haitians: one dies of cholera, one straight up takes off without time for Jesus or thank you ma’am or nothing and only one’s kneeled down to help.”
“What’s cholera?” Shalom crinkles that nose again. “Aren’t all the parables in the Bible?” And I explain and the point of the parables is to get out of story and get right under our skin and what was that parable about giving a glass of water to the least of these?
“So then the parable has all the American Christians stop digging and have a meeting. Reasses. Are we doing this wrong? Are we being wise stewards here? Maybe we jumped in here too fast and need a better plan?”
Me or the parable — who is echoing who here?
Levi’s walking the field now. I can see Levi stopping to count pods, to just count pods.
I squeeze the Farmer’s knee:
“And I get this not an hour after I say it out loud, that I’m with Haiti’s Moses and I’ll pray and see what’s wisest — when people are dying.
The whole thing’s like — like God pushing a note under my door.” I swallow hard. Sometimes the only way you hear if God’s knocking is if you are standing right by the door — ready to go. The beans keep streaming in right behind me, harvest ready and pouring.
“So the Christians have all this talk of stewardship and timing and plans and politics — all amidst the cries of people who are actually dying under the rubble…”
That’s what the parable read:
Then one American Christian bends down and begins the work again of freeing those who are trapped. He works frantically with energy, passion and tears.
The others look at him for a moment and then one asks him, “Brother, where have you found this energy for the task? Are you sure you know what you are doing?”
“Don’t you see, loved ones? My heart is trapped beneath this rubble, too. We are all in danger if we do not respond to this need. We are all in grave danger – those who are below the rubble and those who stand above….
My witness before the throne of Jesus lies beneath this rubble.”
And the Farmer who’s working at a harvest, he turns to me:
“Sometimes if you wait until you really know what you are doing — means you don’t know really God and what He can do.”
We are all in grave danger.
Those who don’t respond are the ones in grave danger.
“Tell your Moses yes.” The Farmer in the tattered t-shirt, he wears the habit of harvest and isn’t the habit of harvest the one habit that Christians need to cultivate most? The Farmer’s speaking loud over the engine now, over everything that threatens to drown out our yes.
“Tell your Moses that we haven’t forgotten our kin and we aren’t hard or deaf and we’re going to do something.”
Something? Even if we still aren’t sure it’s the best thing?
And I answer my own question.
When someone stops doing nothing and just starts doing something, anything — this is what starts to change everything.
I’m done with excuses that stand in the way of a harvest — when it’s time to stand in the gap for the harvest.
Being with Christ as He goes to the lost and the least is always doing the right thing.
The world says, follow the right people and be a success. And Jesus says follow me and be crucified — and this is success.
The world says get rich now — or at least very soon. And Jesus says give it away now — because “soon” might be too late.
The world says you find your best life when you spend it all. And Jesus says whoever loses his life for me will find it — and if you try to save your life, you’ll lose it. Does anyone believe Him?
Keep your life safe, save up life, hoard all this good to make your life good — and you will lose your life. That’s what He said.
Whoever wants to save his life will definitely lose it.
Right into twilight, the beans break themselves wide open and there is the harvest and my heart is trapped beneath all this rubble too.
It’s time to break myself, break into harvest, break wide open — break free.
And when Malakai stands at the end of the field in the last of the light, while there is still day, while there is still light — he splits open a pod, rolls the gold beans around in the palm of his dirty hand and the habit of harvest means you get dirty and there is no shame but relief.
The boy just raises his hand. And it’s like the whole rattling dead field is rising right alive and he holds his palm up to the sun just in time.
Like an offering of yes burst into flame.
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For the next 3 weeks: The Practice of Suffering…. What does it mean to pick up a cross? How do we walk through hard times? How do we participate in the sufferings of Christ? We look forward to your Scripture study, stories, encouragement….
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