This past month, my childhood next-door neighbor, Mrs. Hamilton, passed away. Pondering her life and impact on me brought back fond memories with her and her husband. Many years ago, when I was a young boy, Independence Township (Michigan) was much less developed than it is today. Most of the neighbors had gardens and many raised animals for food. The Hamilton’s had a plentiful garden surrounded by abundant fruit trees and a range of chickens. I loved to go over to their house and ask questions about gardening and raising animals because I loved the concept of farming and being able to raise your own food. I tried these things to some extent by planting a garden at home. Add to that, I always wanted animals for pets, but I could not imagine killing something I raised. Upon the arrival of summer, I was excited about the prospect of having a garden. The thought of going to the garden in the fall and eating my fresh produce was an exciting concept. However, as summer got underway, I started doing the fun things every other youngster was doing, so my gardens never seemed to do so well.
Farmer or Harvester?
James 5:7 paints the picture of a farmer patiently waiting for his crops through the rain that bring forth its fullness; truth be told, I never seemed to find that fruitfulness. I always thought the problem was the seeds or that our soil was just no good. I realized over time, however, that the truth was that I didn’t want to be a farmer; I wanted to be a harvester. Farming is a lot of work compared to harvesting which certainly is a lot of fun and definitely more rewarding. Over time, I gave up on the thought of farming, thinking it would be better to wait until I had kids so I could make them work the garden. That seemed to be the strategy of most of the neighbors when I was a child (a least from my childhood perspective).
Visions of Grandeur
When it came to pets, I had similar ideas of grandeur, but this time, it was my mom that forced me to give up on the idea of having pets. As a mother of nine children, she knew she would be the one that would end up caring for any pets and that wasn’t an option. When I became a parent, my children asked for pets and appeared to have the same idea I had when I was a kid—they wanted to get a pet to enjoy and hopefully leave the care up to their mom or me. Oh the joy of childhood and the problem of “kill joy” parents who don’t go along with our schemes!
As parents and contributors to society in general, we have an important lesson we need to instill, if you want to enjoy something in life, you must also be willing to work and accept the responsibility to satisfy your desire. Like a farmer, we must be patient to let the natural course of life unfold, but also like the farmer we must cultivate the soil, plant seeds, weed the garden, make sure things are well watered, to name a few, if there is to be a harvest. In the end, it is the farmer that will determine what produce they will reap. The idea of hard work, dedication, and responsibility seems like a very simple lesson, but one we are not really promoting these days. In fact, with the world of technology, rapid change, and quick rises to wealth, we no longer have the visible object lessons for our children. When you hear about the billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg, whom at age 30 had a personal wealth estimated at $33 billion USD, it’s difficult to not be impressed by all those zeroes. It is also difficult to believe that the way to success is through hard work, a long-term plan and lots of patience. The truth is that the job market for this generation is worse than it has been in a long time and joining a company you could look to as your long-term source of provision has become extinct.
More than ever, personal responsibility is going to determine someone’s quality of life. Businesses have changed how they view employees and the demands of the economy will make the government a much less trustworthy support in the days ahead. We need to acknowledge this problem and address it as a society. As Christians, we must understand this provides a basis for a future harvest as never before. In the end, self-determination only goes so far. We were created by God to have a support system! When human institutions quit providing support, the Church stepped in to provide support, but we need to be reminded yet again, that the greatest thing of value we offer the world is God!
Don’t give up on a principled life and neglect the powerful truth of the Word. Cultivate a relationship with God and lead others to the ultimate place of satisfaction in Him!