The summer of 1999 was a special season for me. I got to fulfill a childhood dream of working and living on a farm. (Many thanks to Lee and Barb Miller of Barlee Farms!)
It is hard to describe the kind of pull that that field cultivator put on the tractor when I dropped those iron teeth into the black Iowa soil.
The whole machine became a workhorse. Had you been with me in the cab, you would have heard the massive 275hp diesel engine throttle down and the whistling whine of the turbo at full operating capacity. You would have seen the black diesel smoke pouring out of the stack. And you would have felt all eight of those six-foot mammoth tires sink their grooves into the ground for traction. It was an incredible feeling!
The greatest challenge, though, was keeping the rows straight and not making any skippers. Because the field was so big, I had to fix my eyes on an object over a half a mile away – sometimes a tree and at other times a pole, a fence post, or a house.
Then I had to line that object up with the silver colored bar on the hood on the tractor. Only then could I gain the necessary perspective to keep my rows straight and true.
Only when we focus on something outside of our immediate context can we maintain our course through difficult circumstances.
It was a great life lesson.
And one I have had to learn several times at deeper levels over the years. There are moments in all our lives when it feels like God has sunk all 250 iron-tipped spikes into the hardest soil we’ve ever seen.
Life is hard and at times not fair. The iron teeth of unexpected tragedy, marital conflict, church struggles, temptation, diminished financial resources, and stress on the job can overwhelm us even to the point of impeding forward progress.
While we tend to resist such trials, they are in fact a gracious gift from the Lord. For only in persevering through them will hard soil made soft again so fresh fruit can emerge.
And we are made stronger not because of our capacity to pull the heavy load but because we learn to trust in God’s strength and grace to do it for us. Our job is simply to focus on Him through it all.
Solomon instructs his son in Proverbs 4:25 to “Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you.”
And Jesus reminds the crowds in Matthew 6:33 to “…seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
Take heed of these wise instructions. Start today.
Align yourself with that eternal, fixed reference point.
Do not get distracted, looking behind you or to the right or the left.
Maintain your gaze on our great God and Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Trust the mysterious work of the Holy Spirit through the hard times.
When we do this, we will see smoke pouring out of those big, black stakes. We will feel the powerful engine of God’s strength motor down, doing for us what we’re not able to do on your own. The tread of God’s promises will grip the soil and pull us through.
It will be the ride of our lives and quite possible the gateway for some of the most unbelievable adventures yet to be realized.