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Growing Deeper

I ran into Chico last week at the Pirate Café in Collinsville. We ate hamburgers together and talked about the weather and the crops. I was especially interested in his evaluation of the wheat crop this year. Like every farmer I’ve ever known, he was a bit pessimistic. That cautious approach to agricultural outcomes is understandable given the immense variables farmers face each year in terms of rain, hail, and temperatures. And I have to admit that I also shared with him my own disappointment in the quality of my pasture this spring, especially given how much rain we have had. It is green, but the grass is not growing as vigorously as I think it should.

If you listen long enough and carefully enough to a farmer (or a mechanic, welder, or cowboy) you will eventually hear something that is exceptionally wise, the kind of wisdom that has grown out of years of practical experience with nature or horses or people. This is what Chico said: “We need things to dry up. Right now it is so wet that the roots are all staying at the surface. If we get a little drought and then some rain, those roots will grow deep, and the grass will be stronger and healthier.” I sat there, a bit stunned, and then started thinking about all the times I have experienced this. I’ve seen the Davis Mountains in far west Texas turn from brown to green almost overnight. I’ve also seen it happen to my own pasture when we get a nice little rain in the middle of a dry July. But I never put two and two together. Sometimes, a little drought makes things grow deeper and stronger.

It is also true in our spiritual lives. When life is going well, when there is an abundance of blessings and not many challenges or difficulties, it is easy for any of us to become spiritually shallow and vacuous. It’s just human nature: when everything is rosy, our natural narcissism easily seduces us into believing, perhaps unconsciously, that we don’t really need God, or prayer, or worship. We enjoy the ride without paying too much attention to the One who breathes into us the gift of life every single day. It might sound like an odd way of thinking about it, but sometimes a string of “happy” events can compromise our capacity to discover the kind of deep joy that comes when we are challenged enough that we are forced to grow deeper spiritual roots.

I’m not praying for bad luck for anybody, only pointing out in this season of Easter that the deep joy of resurrection doesn’t happen without the pain of crucifixion. And we don’t have to pray for bad luck. Sooner or later life will disappoint us or challenge us or flat out bring us to our knees. It’s just helpful to remember that in those times of drought, God enables us to grow deeper and wiser and stronger. Just ask any farmer.

Rev. Don Underwood