August 9, 2006

Farming Success

Farming Success

capIt’s summertime in Walla Walla and that means sweet, sweet onions, cherries the size of kiwis, and weeds. Jungles of weeds. 

But some years ago I learned the secret of controlling the weeds that threaten to bury my lawn--fertilizer. My yard belonged in the local 12-step meeting for it was--without question--chemically dependent. The drugs made it look like the eighteenth fairway at Augusta.
Discovering the secret to a lush lawn made me as cocky as a farmer in a fruit market. I didn’t bother with a landscaper’s advice on the type and amount of fertilizer. I loaded up on the cheapest brand and let ‘er fly. 
2006 1522 haffnerI asked a friend to lend me his spreader. After three weeks of waiting, my patience was worn thin, and my lawn was slowly dying. Finally I got the spreader, but it didn’t work. Anxious to fertilize before vacation, I ripped into the bags of lawn food and began throwing granules everywhere. 
What harm could fertilizer do? I wondered to myself. This is the only way to get green grass fast, so just do it!
After vacation, I was eager to see my front yard. Until I saw it. I began quivering, then sweating, and finally mumbling.
Have you ever seen a lawn with leprosy? Splotches of plush green grass created a polka-dot pattern with brown spots the size of Houston. Interspersed between the dots are half-moons that revealed my spreading technique.
“How embarrassing,” my wife said in shock. “How did that happen?”
“A comet?” I offered. “Or vandals? Or maybe, the fertilizer.”
A $143 water bill, a $52 aeration fee, and 3 months of recovery time, and my lawn still looked as ugly as homemade soup. And there was no hope for recovery--apart from time. Eventually, with the TLC reserved for the White House grounds, my lawn returned to its former glory. 
You see, lawns are governed by the Law of the Farm; and there’s no hurrying the natural process. You can’t plant pumpkin seeds on Halloween and pick pumpkins for pie by Thanksgiving.
But we like those shortcuts, don’t we? We expect instant pudding, minute rice, and one-step cameras. Waiting longer than 30 seconds for a seven-layer burrito at Taco Bell steams our beans. We ask incredulously: What are they cooking with back there … a crockpot?  Who has time and patience for the Law of the Farm?

Slick Solutions

A parent once approached a college president and asked, “How long will it take you to educate my son?”

“That all depends on what you want your son to become,” replied the president. “It takes nature two weeks to grow a squash and a hundred years to grow an oak.”
What do you want to become? A squash? or an oak? Your destiny is determined by your ability to wait. To delay pleasure. To pay now and play later. 
The Law of the Farm smacks at the prevailing voice of our society that worships comfort, ease, pleasure, and instant gratification. Russian comedian Yakov Smirnoff observes: “Coming from the Soviet Union, I was not prepared for the incredible variety of products available in American grocery stores. I couldn’t believe all the wonderful things they have. On my first shopping trip, I saw powdered milk . . . you just add water, and you get milk. Then I saw powdered orange juice . . . you just add water, and you get orange juice. and then I saw baby powder . . . I thought to myself, “What a country!”1
We crave slick, quick, “just add water” solutions to all problems, don’t we? It’s the American way. Play now, pay later. The commercial shouts: “No payments until the year 3000!” Advertisers splash enticing pictures of all the things you can have and the exotic places you can explore just by saying “Charge it!” Play now; pay later.
While the majority bank on this philosophy, the minority who will experience true success will ignore the short cut and opt for the long, risky road. The only pathway to success.

The Feast of Sukkot and Success

One of the most meaningful Jewish celebrations is the Feast of Sukkot. This feast commemorates the forty years of the Jews wandering in the wilderness. Although it was only two hundred miles from Egypt to Canaan, it took God’s people forty years! The trek should have taken no longer than a couple weeks. But it took forty years.

2006 1522 haffnerThe Feast of Sukkot reminded the Jews of the value of meandering in the desert. For it was during this time when the Israelites received the Ten Commandments and the pattern for the tabernacle. In the wilderness, a new generation emerged ready to enter the Promised Land.
The most significant kinds of growth cannot be hurried. A nation of slaves needs longer than two weeks to be transformed into a nation of free people. A man needs longer than a few years to develop a deep abiding trust in God. A woman needs time to paint a masterpiece. Great accomplishments grow out of wilderness experiences. 
It’s the long road. It’s humid. And uncomfortable. And hot. It requires determination. And perseverance. And focus. 
But it is the only pathway to success.

Sow a Character

Whether we like it or not, the Law of the Farm governs every arena of life. What you sow, you reap. 

The Bible is crammed with texts that remind us of the Law of the Farm:
  • “The wicked man earns deceptive wages, but he who sows righteousness reaps a sure reward” (Proverbs 11:18).
  • “They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind. The stalk has no head; it will produce no flour.  Were it to yield grain, foreigners would swallow it up” (Hosea 8:7).
  • “The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life” (Galatians 6:8).
George Munzing put it like this: “If you cheat in practice, you'll cheat in the game.  If you cheat in your head, you'll cheat on the test.  You'll cheat on the girl.  You'll cheat in business.  You'll cheat on your mate.  Sow a thought, reap an act.  Sow an act, reap a habit.  Sow a habit, reap a character.  Sow a character, reap a destiny.”2

1Yakov Smirnoff, America on Six Rubles a Day (New York: Random House, Inc., 1987) p. 51.
2George Munzing, "Living a Life of Integrity," Preaching Today, Tape No. 32.

Karl Haffner is senior pastor of the Walla Walla College church in College Place, Washington.