Tilling Up Fire Ants

Dad tilled the garden every year barefoot.  When I close my eyes, I feel the warm sun, sense the strength of my loving father, and see him there in blue jeans and a white tee-shirt.  In a matter of a couple of hours, the garden soil looked like fine powder just waiting to grow something.

Fast forward about twenty years.  Dad is no longer with us.  I have a family, and it’s time to begin my first garden all by myself.  Sure and confident I crank up the tiller, kick off my shoes, and head for the chosen plot only to learn that tillers have a mind of their own.  They shake from side to side, up and down, and all across an axis of angles. 

My tiller is a front tine only so it took off across the yard without me.  I held on for dear life, embedding thorns and thistles into my bare feet with every hurried step.  I fought the machine hard and forced it to work the straight path ahead of me. That first till made me wish I’d never thought of a garden, and I felt like death after I finished the first row. 

Halfway through, I ran out of the garden screeching as fire ants decided to make my task even harder by taking an upward march from my ankles, to my knees and, well, beyond.  How in the world did Dad gently glide barefoot through the soil, hardly breaking a sweat?

After changing pants, lacing up my hiking boots and wiping muddy tears of frustration off my face, I grappled with the garden again.  As I passed through each furrow, I began to notice that the more I fought the machine the harder the work grew.  When I relaxed and simply guided the tiller, it did its job with ease. 

Since that time, I’ve tilled at least fifteen gardens, and every year as I lace on my boots I laugh at that first fiasco.  Now as I glide through the furrows, I think of how God works in our life.  He holds all the power, wisdom, and ability to refine the hard clay of our life, but we fight Him.  How much simpler it is to quit struggling against the source of strength and rest in it.  The work is still hard but it sure gets done easier than when we push, pull, kick, scream, and fuss.  And look at the product, after a short period of time there is a soft, supple medium in which we can grow and lead others to as well.

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