Rhythm of Life
The ebb and flow of life on the farm is a compelling, appealing and comforting reality.
It is somewhat of a cliché to observe that the farm is the place, maybe uniquely so, where we cannot escape the truth that there is a cycle of life — where birth and death are part of the same story and sequence of every age and every created being.
We remember the early years when we were learning about caring for and managing livestock. For about 10 years, we kept sheep, along with dozens of chickens and cows, a couple of dogs, cats, hamsters and tens of thousands of honeybees.
We loved the sheep, even though our herd never numbered more than about 15.
Of course, there are many reasons we humans are likened to sheep in the Bible. The spiritual metaphors are numerous and fascinating, but we digress.
We navigated the birthing process of the cows and sheep in those days with the advice of other farmers and shepherds, trying to be attentive to the mothers, but not too aggressive in offering assistance.
Most of the time, calves and lambs appeared without too much intervention from us. But we still recall the day, in the wee hours, that our beloved ewe Lilly Fluff died in the lambing process.
It was awful.
The privilege of witnessing the birth of lambs, which we enjoyed many times over the years, was sheer delight. But to see a ewe lose her life in the struggle was heartbreaking.
Yet it was also part of the process.
Certainly, the wisdom of Ecclesiastes echoed in our spirit: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die ...”
We all face the temptation from time to time to deny that death will be a part of our story too. It was integral to the first temptation recorded when the serpent challenged Eve’s thinking as she gazed at the forbidden fruit — “surely, you will not die.”
Sometimes, we are still shocked by death, despite its inevitability, because we are tempted in the same way.
Beyond Birth and Death
But there is more to the life cycle on the farm than the dichotomy of birth and death.
This point was driven home to us not long ago as we were in the midst of what has become something of an annual prayer vigil for rain.
Sure, we trust God and remind each other daily that God is in control and knows our need for rain for all the crops.
God’s power to water the earth is mind-boggling. We remember when we were in a season of drought several years ago and Rick put pencil to paper to calculate the amount of water it takes for 1 inch of rain to water 1 acre.
We think he did this to inform his prayers, because he was counting on God to water 200 acres in short order.
Something else captured our imagination during this year’s prayer vigil for rain. As we contemplated the small snap bean plants and the need for rain to help them mature, for a moment we saw ourselves in the life cycle of this plant.
Here were these little green plants, in their youth, so to speak, where all that matters is growing in size and stature.
It is as if they might say, look at me! Look how tall and how attractive I am! But then like clockwork, the Lord has hardwired the end of the plant’s vegetative phase and the beginning of its reproductive or fruit state.
At the end of the plant’s life cycle, it is all about the fruit that provides the seeds for a new generation.
While it all takes place in a short growing season for the snap bean, it offers a reminder for us in our own seasons of life.
We too, reach the end of our growth phase as we age and move into the season of reproductive activity. And as we mature spiritually, we will bear fruit by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Are we focused on bearing fruit — seeds for the next generation of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal. 5:22)?
Or are we fixated on maintaining our outward appearance, which has no future at all?
We can be easily enthralled by the rhythms of life on the farm, especially birth and death. But the fruit we bear in our daily living is our spiritual legacy, which has eternal value.
This post originally ran at Lancaster Farming.