Lessons from the Farmer (part 1)1
It had been a long day of childish bickering and not-so-subtle complaining. I was weary and discouraged, and still the dishes had to be done before dinner could even get started. As I stood and scrubbed at the remnants of lunch at the kitchen sink, I tried to push thoughts of “Is any of this parenting stuff even working?!” out of my mind, although that was the clear undercurrent of my heart that afternoon.
My daughter, Abby, came over to lean across the bar, nearly face-to-face with me, a request ready at her lips.
“Mommy, will you check me on James?”
She was working hard to get her required quota of Bible review in before she could earn dessert for Friday night. She’s always the first one to claim dessert. I’ve never determined if it’s because her personality is so goal-oriented, or if it’s because she loves cake like her mama.
Either way, I agreed and she opened up the Bible, turned it toward me so I could follow along (while still scrubbing). Then she started reciting chapter 4 of the letter that James penned to the church that was scattered abroad.
Just a few verses in, I realized I had totally lost track of where she was at. I wasn’t paying attention at all. I was fixated on something she had just said.
“See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, and is patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient.” (James 5:7, HCSB)
What a precious gift, that on that day filled with those struggles, He reminded me of His good word through the illustration of the farmer. No one mocks the farmer when they look out and see a field, properly cleared and tilled, seeded, and waiting, earthy-brown, for the rain. Just because they see no perky green shoots popping up yet doesn’t mean there’s nothing going on—and no one seems to doubt that process. But when I look at the garden I’m working in—these five children who are much more work than a crop of vegetables—I’m tempted to believe nothing is happening because I don’t see anything happening.
We’re glad to apply this principle to gardening, but to parenting we aren’t so wise. With parenting, we tend to expect instant results. We (or at least, I) expect to see that seed take root quickly, overnight would be best thankyouverymuch, and I’d like to see some fruit on that tree too, if you don’t mind. I’m not sure I was prepared to look at a child’s life that had been cleared of rocks, thoughtfully planned and plowed, carefully seeded, and diligently watched over, and still see what looks like an empty field.
I feel like this analogy could go off in a lot of different directions, but what I took away from the farmer that day was this: the farmer does his job faithfully. He does all that he can. He rises early and retires late doing the labor-intensive job that was given to him. He works and researches the best ways of getting that seed in the ground and surrounding it with everything it needs to grow well. He uses care in weeding and cultivating. He doesn’t neglect to water it, no matter how busy his schedule becomes. And sometimes it looks like there’s a whole lot of nothing going on in that field of his.
But he knows better.
He knows that just because he can’t see what is happening doesn’t mean that nothing is happening.
I have no idea where you are in your parenting journey these days. But if you are feeling like me that day, perhaps discouraged that you aren’t seeing the growth in your little vegetables that you had hoped for, may I gently remind you to keep being faithful in your field? The farmer doesn’t doubt his work just because the fruit takes a while to be visible. May it be so with us as Farmer-Parents also. Let us not grow weary in a job that certainly induces weariness. Let us take joy in the monotony of clearing the stones, planting the seeds, and faithfully bringing the water instead of allowing doubt to creep in and prevent us from doing that important work.
And while we work hard, we pray that the early and late rains will come.
While we plot the rows and chart the course, we pray that the rains will come.
While we turn the soil and look for barriers, we pray that the rains will come.
While we plant the seed of the gospel each night and each morning, we pray that the rains will come.
While we pull out the weeds that are choking the space our precious veggies need, we pray that the rains will come.
While we water and affirm and daily speak truth and blessing and unchangeable goodness to our little plants, we pray that the rains will come.
While we prune away the parts that are going awry, we pray that the rains will come.
Because the farmer knows that when the rains come, that changes everything.
“So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord! His going forth is as certain as the dawn; for He will come like the spring rains that water the earth” (Hosea 6:3).