By Randy C. Davis
President and executive director, Tennessee Baptist Mission Board
My granddad had a garden. I’m not talking about a small, backyard garden with a few tomato plants scattered about. I’m talking about nearly an acre in the field across the road garden. I loved helping him with his garden when I got old enough.
My granddad only had a third-grade education, but he was a self-taught master carpenter and a whiz mathematician. His name was James Edward Straughn and he had an enormous impact on my life. He was a father figure and fishing buddy; wise counselor and gentle encourager.
While I truly enjoyed working hard filling his big freezer and pantry with produce from the garden, I mostly enjoyed just being with him. Even after Jeanie and I married and I became a pastor, I would spend off days in the spring and summer driving the hour-plus back to help in the garden.
He was particular about his garden. The plot of land had to be tilled well and deep. Each row straight as an arrow and 36 inches between rows. And being in the deep south along the Alabama gulf coast, the seed had to be in the ground no later than Good Friday. The rows were hoed and tilled a couple times a week to keep the weeds down. An immaculately clean garden is exactly what Granddaddy Ed expected.
But come to find out, we weren’t just cultivating granddaddy’s garden back then. He was cultivating my life, growing in me life lessons. Doubtful you’ll miss the correlations with these.
Stay focused. He taught me to keep my eye on the stake driven in the ground at the other end of the row to ensure I consistently plowed straight rows. He ran a string from one end of the row to the other to keep me on course.
Encouragement goes a long way. Granddaddy bragged about how deeply I was sending the plow blade into the ground, and it inspired me to push a little deeper and work a little harder. He told me how well I cleared the weeds on one row, and it inspired me to do even better on the next row. He commended me on how well I picked peas and I really felt accomplished. All his encouragement blessed me.
Anticipate the harvest. I knew a harvest would be coming at the end of the season and we’d talk about the anticipated goodness. A table filled with collards, okra, cucumbers, squash, corn, pinkeye purple hull peas, butterbeans … well, you get the picture. The vision of that table fueled the passion for the work.
Looking back, I can see that a lot of what I learned from my Granddaddy Ed reflected in Scripture, especially how it relates to our present-day lives.
These are difficult days for churches and their pastors. The pandemic has been a pruning experience that has seen an unrecovered loss of roughly 25 percent of pre-Covid worship attendance. The Apostle Paul wrote in I Corinthians 9:10 “…the one that plows should plow in hope…of a harvest.”
It’s hard work, and our Heavenly Father knew it would be hard work. He’s the one who called us to labor in His fields. He told us to sow plentifully so that we could harvest plentifully. And here comes His encouragement that our work is not in vain. “My Word will not return to me void but will accomplish that which I please” (Isaiah 55:11).
So, let’s take a lesson from Granddaddy Ed. Stay focused. Keep plowing. Anticipate the harvest. Our reward will be those gathered around the table rather than the vegetables on the table. Let the vision of the table fuel your passion for the work.
It is a joy to be with you on this journey. B&R