Friday, August 10, 2012

The Farmer’s Children

“I'm looking forward to a generation that does not think it is a unique generation... but says ‘Hey, I just believe the faith of the centuries, grounded in scripture, clarified by reason, articulated over the generations, vital and alive, unified, holy, catholic, apostolic…’” ~Dr. Lawson Stone (Facebook status, March 31, 2012)

There once was a farmer with a beautiful, lush, and productive crop. The farmer and his wife were not always so successful, but with age came wisdom. In their dotage the farmer and his wife enjoyed a self-sustaining life. Everything they needed they had. There was no need to leave the farm for any necessities. Years of gathering knowledge and much practice had given them all the tools they needed to grow and produce all the physical necessities they needed for the rest of their lives. Even better, they were able to provide for their children and cherished the moments that they had to pass their knowledge of successful, self-sustaining life to their progeny. However, they often felt their joy being dampened by the lack of trust the children had in their lifestyle. For some reason, the children simply could not see that the parents had invested much into making their lives what it was. Getting to the point of having it altogether, as it were, was not a matter of luck, but a matter of thoughtful and often painful discipline. Instead, the children simply assumed the parents way was just one of many and was too restrictive for them.

While the children enjoyed health and much prosperity from the life their parents had given them, they resented their parents very much and both swore that when they grew up and left the farm, they would each live life their own way. Try as they might, the parents could not convince the children that they were not simply trying to impose a tradition, but trying to keep them from having to make the same mistakes they had made when they, in their younger years, were not willing to learn from their elders. The children could not see that what they were offered was offered in love and wisdom. Instead, the children only repeatedly and in their own ways rebelled against the parents’ wisdom, continually throwing it back in the parents' faces. The first child was grown and out of the house before the parents had ever pulled their lives together. Early on, they too wished to do life their own way, and had not heeded their parents’ advice. Thus, the eldest child never enjoyed the stable home of his parents. By the time the parents had found the path to success, the eldest wanted nothing to do with it. Too many times had he seen them fail, and now he was edging out his own living. But his story is not the more tragic of the two.

The younger child was born much later than the elder sibling and enjoyed a full life of comfort under successful parents, but he grew up in a generation of general distrust and the parents’ way fell into disfavor with the youngest, as was common for his generation. He was known to say, “Well, that is all well and good for you, but I need to find my own path.” Yet, the parents persisted with both children, passing on their knowledge even where it was unwanted. In the time and place that this family found their selves, living other ways of life was not an option. To live, one had to grow and raise his or her food sources. So, the parents continued in love to try and persuade the children.

While the younger child did not have the option to live a completely different life, he was determined to live a life of farming that was his own. He had seen his farming parents plant seeds for years. He noticed three key rituals they would perform, and wondered if any or all of them had not simply been a silly tradition they had adopted from an ancient myth. First, they would till the earth and add their compost. Second, they would dig a whole and plant the seeds, each kind at various levels and at various distances from each other. Finally they would continually water and tend to the crop.

The child’s first approach was to test and see exactly what parts of his parents’ beliefs were false and which were true. Instead of tilling the earth and adding the compost, he simply began at step two, carefully planting seeds in holes he dug in the hard earth. He also watered and tended to the crop. His harvest produced very little, but it did produce, and he blindly thought to himself, “See my parents were wrong about tilling and composting, that is so unnecessary.” The next season, he decided to skip step two as well. Instead of digging a hole, he simply cast his seed over the hard ground. He did continue to water and tend. This time the harvest produced even less, yet there was some harvest to be had, and, once again, he claimed to him self, “My parents were wrong.” The third season, the young man decided to skip step three. He simply cast seed, never tilling, never planting, and never tending or watering. The harvest was pitiful, but it did produce. The boy continued to suffer for his rejection, but the further he went his own path, the more he resented his parents; until one day, he decided that maybe even the seeds are part of the myth. There was no harvest that year, and he proclaimed to himself, and to all who would listen: “Farming is a myth. I have tried it, and it does not produce.”

What is the point? Humans are not meant to reinvent life with each generation. We progress precisely because we learn from our elders. Imagine if every generation had to rediscover how to build a fire, we would never civilize as a race. We would more than likely be extinct. Too often Christian offspring say, “I do not want to believe because it is what my parents believed. I want a worldview of my own,” and they set out to discover reality from scratch. The question should not be, “Do I have to accent to truths simply because my parents did?” The question should be, “Does what my parents believe work? Is it real, and can I build from that foundation?” We do this in all other areas of life. Why can we not do this with faith? This is a call first to parents: We must embody the faith. We cannot simply tell our children it works, we must show them it works. Second this is a call to the younger generation: “Do not be so na├»ve to think you can do life all on your own. You rely on people every day. If you buy groceries, use roadways, or have any item in your possession that someone else made, you have not made it this far on your own, and discovering a basis for reality is too big a task to go alone.  You never do anything completely on your own. So, it is with discovering truth. We do not have an eternity to figure it out. Be rational and look for that which produces real life and yields a true sustaining crop.