A Farmer's Epiphany
By: Wayne Brown
I can smell the rain riding on the dust in the wind. It is coming from the west and off in the distance I can see the thunderheads gathering for their march across this vast plain that runs off to eternity in all directions. It is a refreshing smell that says welcomed moisture is on its way to a land that sees far too little of this liquid gold from the skies. It is a moment when a man stops what he is doing and wipes his sweaty brow with the bandanna wadded into the back pocket of his overalls. I take the time to pull my hat off and wipe off the hatband as well. Rain is a comin’ and it is time to give thanks to God.
This hard-scrabble life we lead out here…mostly man against the elements of nature. Some might say that a man who would be fool enough to take on such a challenge ain’t really got good sense. I look at it a bit differently I suppose. I saw a piece of ground where things didn’t grow and wondered why. I saw an opportunity to take a bad piece of ground and make it a good one. That was many years back but over that time, I think I won more than I lost. Especially on a day like today when God sees fit to send man a little bit of rain to help things along as seeds turn to plants and plants turn to crops. We pray for rain more than we do money out here. Maybe that is the reason the Lord sees fit to answer our prayers more often than not.
The land was sparsely settled and with what few came, even fewer stayed. The elements beat them down over time and they moved on. No one had time to help the other as we were all locked in our own personal struggles just to reap something from the land and survive. Looking back, maybe that was a mistake. Mankind has a responsibility to look out for others and lend a helping hand. Even I know that. But, I also know that I had my pride and felt that this challenge was mine to face and face it I would. I didn’t ask for any help from those about me. It was that simple in my mind. My pride was everything to me.
I was never much of a religious man until I came to this place. I always felt as if I had all that it took to do it on my own. Out here, in this isolate wilderness, one is relegated to that fact early on for there is no neighbor within miles to ask for help. It is you and you alone. At least that is what I thought in the beginning. After I had failed a few times and the crops were sparse, I began to look at what I was doing with my family. We were losing ground little by little and I would not ask for help because I did not know how. The sun and heat were slowly breaking us down and begging us to surrender. We were running out of time and pride was about all that was left.
I honestly did not know where to turn until one day when I was working the field and I swear a voice spoke to me from somewhere. The first time I heard it, I did not grasp the words as I was more shocked than anything else to hear a voice where there should be none. As soon as I shook off the idea and wrote it all off to the heat, I heard it again. This time, the words rang true as the statement was simple. “Help is here if you ask.” I stopped what I was doing and leaned on my hoe-handle slowly gazing about in wonder. Was I losing my mind? Maybe the heat was getting to me. I sat down and had some water. Nothing like this had ever happened before in my life and I was shaken to say the least. Again the voice repeated those same words as if they came straight from the sky above. They came from everywhere but nowhere in particular. I was overwhelmed. I gathered my tools and headed home for the day.
That night, as my wife and I finished up the supper dishes, I shared with her my experience in the field. Martha had come from a very religious background and seldom did a day go by that she did not read from her Bible which lay on the table in the living room. I told her of the voice and what was said. I figured she would laugh and tell me that I needed to stay out of the sun. To the contrary, she smiled and stood silent for a few seconds then she lay down her dish cloth and said, “John, the Lord is speaking to you. He is offering you his hand. So many times, I have prayed that things would get better but I believe the Lord wants to see you believe, John. He wants you to put your trust in him and let him give you the strength to move forward. You need to listen and you need to answer his call. The Lord has talked plainly to me for years and I see no reason why he cannot talk to you and you to him.” The she paused for a moment before saying, “That is unless your pride is getting in the way.” Then she patted my shoulder and smiled warmly at me. And just like that, she was off tending her chores. There was no mystery in this moment for her. She knew exactly what it was about. That was my Martha and that was what I so loved about her.
I lay awake for a long time that evening thinking about what Martha had said. She had a deep-seated belief in God Almighty and the strength of his way. I was an appeaser. I went to church most Sundays because Martha wanted to go. It was always an awkward place for me but I wanted to appease her and give in to the little pleasures that she had in this rough prairie land. Maybe Martha was right. I didn’t know but I did know that if she was, it was going to take some doing for me to talk to the Lord. I just didn’t know how. What would I say? What did he want me to say?
A few days past but the voice no longer came. The sun beat down in all its treachery burning the land like a prairie fire scorching the earth. As I hoed and scrapped the dirt, I felt more helpless than I had ever felt in my life. When I came to this place with Martha, I was a strong man. I was up to the challenge and I knew that I could do the things necessary to overcome the elements of Mother Nature. Now, I felt just the opposite. Now, I felt like a man who was beaten…finished, but who did not know how to quit. I felt like a man who, for the sake of pride, would stay here and work this land until he dropped and still lose in the process. I felt forsaken.
At that moment, the voice returned and spoke the exact same words. Without a thought I threw my plow to the ground and fell to my knees all but relieved that I had heard the voice once again. In that moment I began to pray as if another controlled my tongue and words, “Dear Lord, I am out of ideas and low on strength but high on pride. What I am, all that I am, you see here before you. I am but a poor farmer but one filled with pride; so much pride, I don’t know when to ask for help. But I do know that I need it now. My wife, Martha, and I have all that we own invested here in this dry little piece of ground. It is not much that we have but for what we have we owe our thanks to you. You have blessed us in many ways and never turned away though I could not find you in my heart. In this moment, all that has changed. I feel your presence all around me and I know that I am no longer alone. I feel your strength and I feel your undying love for this humble servant. Precious Lord, any way that you can find to help us create enough to sustain us will be such a wonderful gift and I pray that you will make it so.”
I remained there in silence on my knees for some time as though unable to move. I was lost in the moment and did not want to lose that moment ever again in my life. I stayed with it…relished it. After a while, I pulled myself up and headed to the house for supper. I said nothing to Martha but inside, I knew that I was a different man henceforth. That night, the storm clouds gathered and it rained upon the land as lightning and thunder danced between to billowing dark clouds. The flashes and thunderous noise were my affirmation that God had heard my prayer out there in that lonely field. He heard it and was bathing my world in the nourishment needed to grow my crops. As the rain fell, I stood in the roof eave of our small house and took it all in knowing that it was indeed a gift of the Lord. My tears of thanksgiving fell from my eyes like the rain pouring from the skies and there I stood unashamed in the rain with my heart bursting with love. When the sun came up the next morning, the world was a different place for me and would remain such.
Things got better after that. Maybe not all at once and certainly we stilled had some times when it was tougher than others, but my mindset was different. The hard times only seemed temporary for I knew better things were always coming to us. Church became a different place for me…one of comfort and solace; a place where I took the time to thank the Lord for standing beside me on those long, hot days when the sun baked all things in sight. I found comfort in His presence. For the first time in my life, I knew the love and comfort which my wife had known for most of her life. All I had to do to gain it was lay my pride aside and accept the love of the Lord.
Those thoughts pass through my mind now as I stand here and watch the storm clouds gather knowing that God’s love will be visited once again tonight upon the earth which holds my precious seeds. I finish wiping the sweat out of my hat but before I place it back on my head, I give a little nod to the heavens. “Thank ya, Lord. I knew that I could depend on you,” I say as I walk slowly back to the farmhouse where my darling Martha will have our supper waiting. A man’s strength comes from many places but mostly from the Lord. I know that now and I take pride in knowing it.
©Copyright WBrown2012. All Rights Reserved.
2 April 2012