two farmers

I have had a vision in my mind for most of my life of two farmers leaning on a fence.  They are having a conversation as the sun goes down after a day of work in the fields.  This image comes from observing my great-grandparents as a child and catching a glimpse of the unhurried lives they lived in the rural American South.  What in the world was there to talk about when life was so simple?  Didn’t one farmer know exactly what the other had done that day?

I imagine there were many moments of silence in the conversation.  Perhaps it was enough just to be in the presence of a friend while feeling the cool evening coming on and watching the sun set on a good day of work.  I imagine a sense of deep contentment that this is where the Lord had put them.

As I turn my eyes to the present day,  I cannot imagine two farmers leaning contentedly on a fence in our current world.  The existence of so many modern distractions and the frenzied pace of life renders it unfathomable that anyone could converse with a friend in an unhurried way, much less be able to enjoy it!

“Two Farmers” by Carroll Cloar, 1953

I know at 45 years old I sound like a grumpy old-timer, and perhaps I am.  But I wonder how in the world we will connect with God—and with others—if we never slow down and get quiet.

I am suspicious that author Martin Laird has been spying on my brain when he writes in his book, Into the Silent Land:

“The mind’s obsessive running in tight circles generates and sustains the anguish that forms the mental cage in which we live much of our lives…[the cage] makes us believe we are separate from God.”

In recent years, I have started practicing contemplation.  This ancient Christian practice is primarily a means of being quiet before the Living God and allowing ourselves to receive his Presence.

I will tell you this, it is NOT EASY to be quiet.  Fear and anxiety keep my brain busy, making sure I remember to take care of this or that task, or recalling the regrettable thing I said yesterday.  I am learning that this stems from me believing I must handle everything, that no one is looking out for me except me.  But, if I make a practice of getting quiet, I just might notice my limitations and at the same time be able to notice a Presence that can handle all that I cannot.

In 1 Kings 19 we read of Elijah who fled to the wilderness to escape from Jezebel who had made a pledge to take his life.  Elijah was given instructions on what to do:

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.  When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

The Lord spoke to Elijah with a gentle whisper.  The King James Version calls it a “still small voice.”

My question for us modern, hurried, uber-distracted people is this: If the Lord spoke, would we hear it?  When we make a practice of getting quiet it does not guarantee that we will hear his voice, but one thing is guaranteed: When we are constantly distracted, we will not hear his voice.

I am envious of those farmers in my vision.  It is unlikely I will ever experience the quiet, spacious life I imagine they experienced.  But I can learn to sit still and be quiet some of the time and make space for the Lord to speak, if not audibly, then perhaps through a sunset, a breeze, or the familiar voice of a friend.



Ben is honored to sit with men and women in the midst of the inevitable and unavoidable struggles of life.  Prior to coming to Barnabas, Ben counseled at the Oviedo Counseling Clinic in Florida.  He has been trained to walk with people through many types of struggles but finds himself regularly working with couples, men dealing with sexual issues, men and women dealing with interpersonal and relational struggles, and those who deal with anxiety and depression.

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