Saturday, January 25, 2014

A Farmer Went Out to Sow

A few days ago I was out with the men in the field.  Six men were bantering and working in such unity. Pick-axes and hoes swung as if they were tied together in one motion.  It reminded me of the old chain-gangs.  Yes, Lord, make us prisoners of your love! We were building up the windrows, ramps as they call them here, and cutting out the canals where the water would flow.
In the field next to us was another farmer and his men, throwing the seed the old-fashioned way by broadcasting.  It's a controlled toss, if you will, followed by a kind of Texas two-step shuffle of the feet as they walk over the kernels of corn.  The ground is left flat and natural, only broken by the oxen and the plow.
Visually before my eyes there was playing out before me the real-life illustration of the Parable of the Seeds.    
I imagined Jesus watching the same leathery-faced men, worn from years of baking in the hot sun, how He might have by the same manner taken interest in the way they carried out their work.  I can see the words forming on His lips, a little smile forming at the corners..."A farmer went out to sow his field..."

Just before mid-day these two bands of merry men crossed paths, their workers in their field, and our men in ours.   Their field was almost finished, and we'd only planted a very small section, about 200 corn. 
Invariably, the ribbing and razzing began.  What are you planting?  Corn!!  Why are you planting it like that?!  Who would ever just plant one seed?  Ahh Whites! Don't you know anything?  What a waste of time...
"As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up."
Yet our guys held their ground and continued working.  I wondered how often they are discouraged, taunted or mocked for working with me.  Almost every day?  I try to embrace the culture and not insert my methods at every turn, but working a field the way we are is a challenge.
There is measuring to do, certain principles to hold, a calculated distance, a controlled depth. By hand we break up the hard clods of dirt and fluff the soil asunder... It requires true care.  

Soon the men in the other field had completed their work and each man went his own way.  I looked at their finished ground, even a little discouraged myself.  They had used 5 times the seeds we had, but the work was done.  Some would come, some wouldn't.  They didn't really care.  It was hot. It was beer-thirty.
"Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root."
By the end of the day, a full 8 hours of work had yielded 400 kernels of corn in the ground.   The men went home, content, happy, at ease with one another, and I walked back to the house.  
I sent a message to my cousin Nic, a farmer in the States.  "How long would it take you to prepare the ground and plant 400 corn?"  I asked, a little curious even though I knew I probably didn't want to know. 
"2 minutes to prepare the ground, 5 minutes to sow, and I couldn't even spray it because the field is too small."   He replied.'s always humbling to be humbled.  

But then when I told the news to Kari she said something that I felt in my heart to be truth.
"Yes, but you're planting a different kind of seed."  
She nailed it.  The truth is, it makes no difference to me how much corn or tomatoes or cabbage or peppers come up.   There are six souls in that field, and for that seed to raise we have to take the time, the measure, the control.  We have to do life.
I think of the discipleship that I've seen and been party to in America.  A cup of coffee one day a week.  Small chat, some good advice, alot of opinion, a hiccup of prayer and a dash of God's word.   Then I imagine that happening all over my country, this hit-and-run discipleship, that really says in the heart, 'Hey, yeah I'm supposed to care about you and I do, but I really gotta run.  I have so many irons in the fire, I'm too busy to really love you.  As for doing life together, this will have to pass.'  And then we wonder, 'Where have all of the men gone?'
"Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants."   I remember being choked.   I remember doing some of the choking. I've been pure insecticide to some of my Christian brothers and sisters.

For every day we've planted, God has brought the rain.  The men who work with me sing praises of God's benediction, His agreement with what is happening in the fields of the heart.   The old-timers in Haiti say they can't remember rain like this in January.  It's the dry season, and it makes no sense at all.
Yet I watched as the sky turned again dark and threatening, the wind picked up, and the temperature dropped.   A big rain came, hard and fast.  On and on it lasted.  Harder and harder.   I filled up 25 gallons in only a few minutes, and so much time passed there was nothing to do but sit and spin away with stories.  One man even fell asleep.  Finally when the rains finished and the clouds broke, we stepped back out into the field to survey the damage.  

The windrows and canals had done their jobs beautifully!   Almost the entire crop and all the seeds were still well above the water line, being wicked away by the torrents of little rivers that the canals had created.  
The plants actually looked happy, refreshed from the broken heat and sun.   The men were smiling and again talking about the benediction of God.   
The field next to ours sat under the water, drowned by the deluge.  The work had been accomplished quickly, but inefficiently.  It had been covered, checked off the list, but forgotten.  There was none who even came to check on the condition of the ground.
I walked back to the house with a new encouragement stirring in my heart. 
Today during the morning devotions one of my men began to break down.  He couldn't hold back the tears that are so severely despised here among men, and the dam of his heart broke open.   God is working, so deep.   I pray He works more and more. 
"Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop--a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.
He who has ears, let him hear."

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