What I Learned About Spiritual Discipline from a Dry-Land Farmer

This summer I was driving through an area of West Texas with my dad. It’s one of those areas where you can still see for literally miles in every direction, your view across the vast fields only obstructed by the occasional windmill or central pivot irrigation system.

We were driving, and we were talking, which is always a great thing to do with my dad because he’s one of these guys that are rapidly disappearing who has a great amount of knowledge in a tremendously wide array of subjects. He was the son of farmers, who were the children of farmers who were the children of farmers. So my dad grew up learning how to fix just about anything he could put his hands to, and then only later decided to become a statistics professor which he has been for the last 35 or so years.

So we were talking. This time, about farming. And my dad was pointing out different tracts of land, who they belonged to, and what kind of farming they did, when he pointed out one area that was dry land.

So I asked the most logical question of a guy who didn’t grow up on a farm: “What does that mean?” And that’s when my dad explained that dry land is exactly what it sounds like – it’s land that it intentionally not irrigated. This is the purest kind of farming, where you plow the fields, plant the crops, and wait for the rain. While it takes certainly a greater risk, because you truly are operating in the realm of faith, dry land farming can also be very lucrative.

He recounted something my grandfather used to say about the subject, that because of the huge cost of irrigation, a farmer really only needed the dry land to produce a good crop once every ten years in order to get by. It struck me, both then and now, that there is a relatable point here for spiritual discipline.

You know as well as I do that some mornings – maybe many mornings – that your time with the Lord just feels dry. So dry that you wonder if the rain is ever going to come again. So dry that you wonder if the time you put into prayer and studying and memorizing the Word of God is even worth it.

So what do you do? On the one hand, you could simply determine that it’s not in fact worth it. You could cash it in. You could close that book and leave it there beside you on the table, and instead look for something else that’s a little more emotionally gratifying in the moment. Or, you can continue to plow.

You can continue to do the hard work, day after day – and maybe year after year. You can continue to sweat and toil, but most of all, you can continue to believe. You can choose the road of faith that, eventually, your feelings will catch up to what you know to be true. You can continue to break up the hard ground of your heart and sow the seed of the word inside those cracked and parched places.

Because you know, that even in this dry land, the rain will eventually fall. And you will be ready when it does.

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