In the summer of the year I turned thirteen, we moved to a small tobacco farming community. One of the farmers in church with teenagers near my age, invited me to their farm to learn how tobacco was harvested. The next morning I woke up at what I thought was early…especially for summer vacation. I dressed in my favorite white shorts, white t-shirt, white socks and white shoes, and rode my bicycle down the road several miles thinking I would be early. When I arrived I found them already hard at work – as they had been for the last three hours. They were unloading a trailer full of freshly harvested tobacco into a large curing box. The farmer immediately made room for me as he said… “The best way to learn is to do.” As we worked, I learned how to harvest and cure tobacco.
I will never be able to describe the joy that I felt when we finally emptied that trailer, expecting that we were on the verge of a break. My smile quickly faded as the empty trailer was pulled away so another full one could take its place. And so it went all day. For nine hours we worked (twelve for those who were on time), stopping only for lunch. By the end of the day the farmer had to load me and my bicycle in the back of his truck to haul me home because I was too tired to walk, much less ride. I was so filthy; my mother stopped me at the door and washed me off with a garden hose. The amused farmer jokingly said “I’ll pick you up at 6 am tomorrow so that you won’t be late.” I think to his surprise and mine, I said “Thank You. I’ll be ready.” He picked me up at 6 am every weekday for the next five summers.
We are surrounded by work that needs to be done, differences that need to be made. We are often hesitate to get involved because we may not know what to do, or maybe we don’t think that we have the time. Deep down we may even be reluctant because we are fearful of making our own lives too dirty or complicated. Many times I’ve heard individuals claim to be waiting for someone to teach them before they get involved. One of my favorite Bible verses is James 1:22, “But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.” It reminds me that we are called to express our faith through action.
It is only when we cast ourselves totally into the journey that we really begin to personally know Christ. Even then our journey should be more than an effort to know Christ. It has to include making Christ known. If we continue to wait until our personal and spiritual lives are perfect and tidy we will forever be on the sidelines. In life and faith, we learn best by doing and ‘getting our hands dirty.’ That first day on the farm taught me a lot about farming and faith, neither of which are spectator sports. I think the most important lesson I learned was that if at the end of the day your hands are clean, you probably did not make a difference. Live life to get dirty and make a difference.