He’d set the alarm for 1 AM on a Monday morning because sometimes a man has to do what he has to do.
He’d slept the rest of a Farmer on the Lord’s Day.
Then hauled to the fields in the pitch dark just as soon as Monday feebly birthed.
Before that sun finally dragged up, he had a whole field worked up and half a ton of dirt ground into his jeans.
By sun down, he was still ahead of the clouds skulking in on the edges of the radar.
And the back of his shirt stuck to him like a dirt crusted skin and he wore dust like he knew what he was and he was surrendered to it and he kept on going, steadied.
One of the boys, Levi, he fills the planter with his dad, hauls and lifts and empties out those bags of corn seed. Before getting back up into that tractor seat, they walk a bit of the earth together. They scratch back soil and poke about for a seed. I watch them do this.
I watch them, the father and the son and the seeking of a seed. Something grows in me and it doesn’t have words and it doesn’t ask for words. It asks only for witnessing. Only for gratitude.
Only for the living that lets the everyday dirt become the sacred everyday.
There are times it seems wrong to keep your shoes on, to do anything less than stand bare-heeled and bowed and broken wide open.
Them bent. The way a soul can grow any way it chooses.
“Think we planted deep enough, Dad?” Levi kneels across from him.
The Farmer pats the earth over the seed. “As long as it rains.”
As long as water comes, as long as there is a coming.
The Farmer gets back on the tractor.
Levi and I stand on the hem of the field and watch him move away in a cloud of lit dust, into the dusk.
Levi and I go home and find our beds. The Farmer keeps going, keeps laying seeds into beds.
Come 1 AM Tuesday, that alarm goes off again like a screeching banshee needing coffee.
So at 1 AM, I yank the screaming banshee cord out of the wall, drag out looking for a Farmer still planting loam with impossible small hope somewhere in the middle of the night.
I find him 2 roads over and nearly a mile and a quarter back, driving that tractor down into the dark and the dirt with a planter storming up a swirl of earth behind him and no mind of time only the task at hand.
When I roll up on the headland, he idles the tractor, walks straight through headlights, up through the ditch to the road.
“You need anything?” I roll the window down lower, night cold rushing in. Why in the world hadn’t I come with something warm for the man’s chill?
He leans in. “No… had a bunch of breakdowns. Gearbox on the auger. The marker arm on the planter. So I’ll still be a couple hours here yet before this field’s done.” He nods back at the tractor. “No… you get sleep. I’ll probably need your help sometime after 3 — move some of this home?”
“Okay. 3. I’ll go home and plug that alarm back in.” He nods and is gone again in the dark and why hadn’t I come with something?
At 3AM, I help him move the tractor and planter and wagon and truck back home and at 4:30, he finds the mattress for less than an hour and then he’s gone again in the greying light.
At 7AM, I bring orange juice and a muffin back out to him on the tractor, to him planting now on the home farm.
“Long night.” He takes the cup from my hand.
“Ah, I couldn’t keep my eyes open — just kept drifting off. For a while I had to stand up —” I can see that, how he’d do that.
How he’d stand up on that open tractor in the middle of the dark, a weary shadow in tractor lights and a fog of swirling dust, standing there fighting sleep and dust in the eyes and heaviness in the bones.
“…. and then how did I keep going the rest of the night?” He says it like a searching.
He looks across the field — as if trying to remember, trying to find the memory out there between the rows of seeds, of how he got through the dark, how he kept going when there was really no stand or vision left in the man.
And then he finds it in the back 40 of his mind and he lights, white teeth flashing across that dirt stained face.
“Oh, yeah — that’s what it was— ” he looks down at me.
“…. then you came.”
And then you came.
Just for a moment, I touch his cheek, his dust.
And you with only with a word, with only a smile, a hand, a yes, you with the gospel and you with His presence, then you came.
You who rubbed feet at the end of the day and you who massaged the tight crook of a neck and you who dropped off a bag of fruit just because they were on sale at the market for less than half price. You who got up in the middle of the night and came to the wretchedly sick and the deathly scared and to the one who just needed a face and hand to squeeze.
Then you came.
You shut off the screen, pushed back the chair, found your feet, didn’t come up with an excuse or a distraction or an eyeroll, but you simply came to the child, to the man, to the lost, with the name of Jesus on your tongue and the fire of Christ in your belly and the heat of your Savior in your bones and the thing is: When you’ve been saved, you can’t stay.
When your Savior is in you, you can’t stay still.
When you love God, you have got to go.
Yes, there is no other way to begin or become or be: Be still and know He is God. And once you know He is God… how can you not let other people know? Experience Him? Know. Him? There’s simplicity for a soul: Stilling. Knowing. Then Going.
And it comes unforced, like a reviving wind — When the gentle stillness of God fills you … the burning love of Christ fuels you.
Christianity means someone goes. Christianity means someone comes. SomeOne left heaven, SomeOne went to a manger, to a Cross, to the dying and trapped and the buried. And if no one goes across the room, across the house, the sidewalk, the street, the country, how many will grow cold and fall asleep and drift off and away?
How many will be held captive and chained and bound and who will go and break down doors and break down walls and break down small boxes and the only way for your life to yield anything is to go.
Take one step, reach out your hand.
You don’t have to have anything — but Christ.
Don’t let the Great Commission be your life omission by thinking it’s a function of distance — instead of going the distance right where you are.
You’ve just got to go down the hall, across the room, to the end of the street, across town, over high walls, across county and state and country lines and reach right across barbed wire fences. If we’re the hands of Christ — how can we just sit on them? If our feet are shod with gospel of good news — how can they not go where there’s bad news?
Isn’t this always the holiest work of all — to lay aside an agenda to carry a cross and the presence of Christ just. one. step. further.
He’s looking down at me, eyes tired and dirt-lined.
My hand rests a moment longer on his grizzled stubble.
And he says just those 3 words again like grace, the grace of rain —
then you came.
The way the presence of Christ is the gift wrapped in our skin.