Memories. Sometimes sweet. Sometimes bitter. Almost always instructive.
A recent conversation brought this to mind. It gave me cause to reflect on my “days on the farm.” What an awesome, incredible, joy-filled experience… especially for a city boy.
There is nothing quite like waking up to the sight of five or six cows on the loose and running down the road. Nothing much can prepare you for the frightful moment a turkey decides to lunge at your midsection. And the yard work…oh brother, forget it! The weeds never go away.
If you are familiar with farms, then you know what I mean. If not, you have nooooo idea.
Neither did I. In fact, I thought it would be everything my childhood imagination insisted.
Omelets every morning.
Sipping lemonade on the porch.
Dangling hot feet in cool streams.
A dog for the front yard.
A dog for the back yard.
A dog for the truck.
And a dog for Mama’s lap.
Mice keeping the crumbs away and cats keeping the mice away.
And grown-ups talking.
Well, I guess it’s all of that and quite a bit more. Some I experienced. Some I still dream about.
During our first church ministry, my young family and I were invited to live on a farm with some members of the church. They had just built a new home on the farm leaving the old farm house empty. We could hardly believe our fortune. The scent of hay filled our senses from a hundred miles away. We could barely contain ourselves. Graduating from school, packing our household items and tying up loose ends became mere formalities. In our hearts we were already on the farm.
The arrival only reinforced the expectations. And four years on that beautiful farm confirmed our expectations were right. We built friendships stretching to heaven and memories that seem like heaven.
One in particular still gives me reason to giggle. My wife, Vanita, was out weeding her small garden. Remember, we were city folk living the country life…always willing, not always as wise. As she kneeled, pulled, dug, and rearranged, our first child, Matthew, played around her, on her, under her, and sometimes over her. He played with the tools…well, he managed to lift a handle or two, seeing as he was just two years old or so. He picked up the discarded weeds…put some of them back in the ground. He dug deep in the soil with his bare hands. He chucked a few small stones. All in all, he was becoming the little boy I once longed to be.
Playing behind Vanita, Matthew said, “Mama, is dirt good?”
“Yes, Sweetheart, the dirt is good,” she answered.
“Mama, is the sky good?”
“Yes, Honey, the sky is good.”
“Howbout the rocks, Mama? Rocks good?”
“Uh-huh, rocks too, Matthew.”
“Yes, grass too.”
“Mama, are worms good?”
“Yes, Baby, worms are good.”
And for just a little bit our son fell silent.
… … …
“Puh, yecch, blech, puh, puh, splech, khu-poo…uh-uh, Momma, worms not good!”
Turning, my beautiful wife witnessed Matthew spitting the last remnants of a large earth worm from his mouth. He turned, lips and cheeks all covered with dirt, smiled and said, “Uh-uh, Mama, worms are ugh.”
Memories are awesome. They bring back good times…sometimes not so good times. They give us a reason to pause…slow down…reflect…and learn. You can fill in the blanks regarding the lessons we learned from that little episode. Even more so the many lessons learned during a not so successful transformation from city folk to country folk. Perhaps for me the lesson is this: children want to learn. They are born with the who, what, where, when, and how questions ready to explode from their minds and their lips. More importantly, the why question is just begging to be fulfilled.
“Why is dirt good, Mama?”
“Well it helps us grow food.”
“Because, it has the right stuff for growing the food.”
“Because, it’s always been that way, darling.”
“Because, that’s how God made it.”
“Oh, Baby, sometimes I just don’t know why.”
If you are a parent, you’re saying, “Been there, done that,” right?
Most often their questions make us proud. Often the questions stump us. Sometimes exasperate us. Hopefully they do not anger us.
It’s the way God designed us. The human being is a question producing, information gathering, idea synthesizing product of an all-knowing, never-changing, wise and creative God. We learn. He teaches. We’re made in his image. So we get to teach also.
Be careful, then, Mom. Be careful, Dad. Be careful, grandma, grandpa, aunt, uncle, teacher, preacher, counselor, mentor…be careful. In the Bible we read this:
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Deuteronomy 6:4-7
My people, hear my teaching; listen to the words of my mouth. I will open my mouth with a parable; I will utter hidden things, things from of old—things we have heard and known, things our ancestors have told us. We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done. Psalm 78:1-4
Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4
Be careful that you help your offspring not only know about God, but come to know him. The last thing you want to hear from your son or daughter one day is, “Puh, yecch, blech, puh, puh, splech, khu-poo…uh-uh, God’s not good!”