A Lesson in Patience

When I was 18 I worked for four months on a farm in Saskatchewan, and it was one of the most life-shaping experiences of my youth. I started in the spring of the year.

The growing season is fairly short at that latitude in Western Canada, so when it came time to sow the fields, the equipment had to be ready, the seed on hand, and every hour made to count.

My immediate boss, Harold, went out to the fields shortly after four in the morning, filled up the drill with seed and, as dawn broke, mounted the McCormick Deering W-40 and began sowing. At eight, I went out to relieve him; he came back to the field at one; and I returned at six and continued sowing until dusk, near ten. In a matter of a couple of weeks, the waiting fields of the 1200-acre farm were sown.

As fall approached and it came time to harvest the grain, the work days were similarly long — sun-up to sun-down.

Self-compelled combines, tractors and trucks were much smaller back in the forties of the Twentieth Century and that made the tasks more demanding. It was no easy challenge for me to pull up the short-bed, two-ton GMC truck to the combine, take on a dump of wheat, race for the nearby granary a half mile away, shovel off the load into the auger, and be back at the combine again 20 minutes later for another load.

This schedule included meals on the run, brought to the field in a cardboard box (before today’s commodious styrofoam containers of all sizes were available to keep food warm or cool as needed).

But between the spring days of sowing and the fall days of harvesting, the farmer had to wait. He waited patiently with his eye on the skies. A menacing hail storm could flatten his ripening grain. An early frost might damage his crops. Even lack of rain could reduce the yield severely.

But his was not an idle patience. During that uncertain season, he went about his secondary chores, repairing sheds, servicing machinery, getting a few hundred chicks started, milking three or four cows, and otherwise waiting in hope.

In those four months, I learned why farmers are the way they are. They are people of patient faith — a faith that isn’t easily flustered, that often seems impassive, but that holds a steady course in hope.

They have to be like that. After the seed is in the ground they must trust nature to be kind. They don’t start to harvest the day after thy sow. There’s always a waiting time. And during that wait, everything else they do is subordinate to the one event that makes all their work worthwhile — a coming harvest.

That must be why the Apostle James wisely used the farmer as an example of the kind of patience Christians should have as they labor on. He said, “Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains (James 5:7).

Like them, we wait in hope, but we carry out our duties as we wait. It is the steadfast hope of the Lord’s coming that keeps us actively patient.

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