Those who sow in tears will reap with cries of joy. Those who go forth weeping, carrying sacks of seed, Will return with cries of joy, carrying their bundled sheaves.
Planting is exhausting work, especially when you do the work largely by hand. The last two days, the temp was over 90 degrees, the soil was dry and burning and the sun was beating down upon us. We had 1/2 acre of animal (dent) corn to plant and another 1/3 acre of vegetable garden to get in and really wanted to finish it all this week (we did). My 10yo son Jonathan went down with heat exhaustion yesterday–and we all went to bed around 9pm. Exhausted. It’s terrible…but then again, it’s only this bad once every year.
However, as the Psalm says, we will be singing a different song in 3-4 months when we reap the fruits of this week’s work. Yes, we will come, carrying our sheaves in August and there will be no one happier. It is good to work in hope and we only do so because we have confidence that God will bless our work. How miserable it would be to work as we do with great uncertainty of whether or not we will ever reap what we have sown–but we do not work with such uncertainty. We believe in a generous God who rewards those who work honestly. We plant, we water and then we pray, “Lord, bless our work and give us the joy of a good harvest.”
I can understand why men ran when the chance to move from the country to the city came up. Surely they thought of the monotony of farm life: milking on cold mornings, planting in exhausting heat, the dirt and grime, the simplicity of life, etc.. However, I think those who do move away from the farm miss out on the true happiness the farm offers. For me, farming is a safeguard against the modern way of instant gratification, which causes everything to lose its true value. Farming protects us against pride. Men on a farm are humbled by the weariness of the flesh and their dependence on others. Women are made aware of their weakness and their need for a husband and the value of a large family–which means more work and even less pride. Children do not think to deal arrogantly with an adult for they see the adult’s superior strength and wisdom on a farm and appreciate the care of their mother and provision of their father. It’s protection against individualism, for you cannot farm alone. It is said that “the family that prays together stays together”, but I’d argue that its even more true that “the family that works together stays together”. In the Bible, the prodigal son, leaving his family for a self-oriented life was an extreme case used by Jesus to teach the mercy of God, but in most suburban and urban circles, it is the norm. None of my children would ever think of going off alone, except for religious life. Farming keeps me in check with the real world–sun, moon, stars, soil, water, weather, animals, seasons…and God. It’s not a wordly confused by TV shows and literature where false things can be said and no one hardly know whether they are false or not. Farming unites me to past generations, where my life was the norm. One doesn’t need to study much history when he lives in continuity with it. Farming guides and guards my philosophy and religion. It orders my life and provides a rhythm of seasons and provides natural changes throughout the year. In the city, holidays slowly break down and lose their original meaning, “the daily grind” becomes more and more wearisome as the remains of old fashioned life die out. There is no competition against other men and women on the farm, but rather collaboration for a common good. On the farm, God’s plan for the family makes clear sense to everyone as every member of the family serves an important role and is appreciated. The work that children can do (setting seeds, watering, feeding animals, cleaning..) actually puts food on the table and benefits the adults in the home and gives the children the satisfaction of knowing they are an important part of the family.
Lastly, for all that modern suburban/city life supposedly offers, there is one thing that is lacking: the joy of the yearly harvest. Life without harvest time is simply unnatural and belongs to a life of slavery rather than freedom. Working in hope throughout the year and watching the fields fill out and finish off is great joy and keeps hard work in its proper context of hope and foreshadows the greater spiritual reality:
“Let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart.” (Gal. 6:9)
The farm teaches that better than any other environment.