Granddaddy Holden’s farm was located near Brevard in Transylvania County, North Carolina. The soil in Flave’s field was a sight to behold. The black, rich dirt would grow anything, and God used that image to teach me an important lesson. I’ve always seen myself as a potted plant, a spindly one at that, but God sees me as a fertile open field. Flave Holden’s farm still stirs powerful childhood memories and is a perfect example of the kind of growth God has in mind for my heart. Daddy used to tell us that you couldn’t leave a hoe or shovel out in granddaddy’s field overnight because there would be two of each when you woke up the next morning. The richness of the soil in his field was due, in part, to the fact that it was nestled next to the French Broad River and the Pisgah National Forest. His was unlike any other garden I’ve ever seen. Flave was a Baptist preacher, a farmer, and the biggest kid I ever knew. He loved to play, and I loved him. He always had a smile on his face, wore thick glasses and was a very big man. There was a silent strength in him that comes from one who has deep faith in God. He loved to play the piano and sing hymns with abandon. We learned to follow along as he played the shape-note hymns we grew to love. I followed him around like little puppy when I visited his farm.
I once caught him in a very private moment that gave me a glimpse at the love he had for the land God had given him. Granddaddy didn’t know I was watching as he looked lovingly at a the black rich dirt he was crumbling in his big hand. As the dirt fell, I sensed that this field was more than a place to grow food. He loved that dirt and what it represented. It was life itself and connected him to his God in a way that I am only now beginning to understand. He knew God was the giver of life, and he was a good steward of the land God entrusted to him. He also knew God delighted in watching His children grow as much as he loved to see the vegetables in his garden ripen. Both are well worth the trouble it takes to tend them.
God prefers plants in a field, birds in the open sky, and fish in His waters. We insist upon putting birds in cages, fish in tanks, and flowers in a pot. We so want to contain and control and take His creation and make it our possession. We even attempt to define and limit God. Granddaddy knew who owned the land and gave thanks to God for allowing him to harvest His fruits, both in the field and in the church. Unlike Flave, I’ve always gravitated toward a cage, a tank, or a flowerpot. My heart didn’t venture into open spaces. There is safety and security in a cage, so fear kept me from allowing my heart to accept the kind of love that grows in the open. My witness suffered because of my inability to open my life and my heart in the way God desires. Love and truth go hand in hand, and neither can be contained.
The image of Flave’s field blesses me in ways I can’t describe, just as I am unable to explain the beautiful way God communicates with me. So patient, so kind, so loving, but most importantly, so aware of who I am and how I hear and learn. That is the most beautiful blessing of all. God knows me, loves me, and helps me love Him and others as I’ve never dared to love before. We each love God in a different way. I’ve learned to focus upon my relationship with God. I cannot tell others how to love Him. I can simply let them see how I love Him. That is what witnessing is all about. When a friend is hurting, I can only listen and love. I need not do anything. A loving presence is more than enough and models what God does for me. Pastor John has been trying to teach me that powerful truth for a very long time. I am only beginning to understand the concept.
God is the Master Gardener and will provide all I need to grow into His disciple if I will simply yield my will and let Him do the tending. He sees potential in me just as Flave saw all that dirt would yield as it ran through his fingers. The fruit of Flave’s field filled our table as we carried home carloads of the delicious vegetables it produced. I especially loved the fall when his apple trees were full of ripe fruit. There was nothing quite like the soft pink apples that grew in front of his home or the big white mushy ones that grew near the barn. Knowing God loves me and wants me to be the fruit of His Spirit humbles me and changes the way I live and love. It gives my heart the same feeling of freedom I found on Flave’s farm. A yielding field allows the Gardener’s plow to break and take away all that hinders growth. God’s plow has cut deeply at times, but the results have been well worth the pain.