If I had all afternoon, I’d get that box of letters down and find it. The alfalfa would probably fall out of the envelope, just as it did that first time I opened it. And I’d get lost in re-reading his letters…
I think it was the spring before we got married. My farmer sent me a letter with little purple alfalfa flowers folded inside. “The alfalfa is ready to cut when it’s ten percent bloom,” he’s explained over and again.
But ready to cut doesn’t always mean it’s time to cut. He watches the weather. Sometimes, he lets the alfalfa bloom more in order to harvest the hay when the sun is shining. Sometimes, he cuts earlier, because he knows rain is coming.
James 5:7 became real to me when I fell in love with a farmer. I have his name scribbled into the margin of my Bible beside the word “farmer”:
Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.
–James 5:7, ESV
I remember visiting a Bible study with a friend, finding them discussing that chapter, and being able to explain the verse about the farmer to “city kids”. Of course, I was only just beginning to understand it then myself. But after six years by his side, through the sunshine and the rain, I’ve become intimately acquainted with the patience that makes a farmer.
Praying for rain so we don’t have to irrigate. Praying for a week of sunshine so we can cut hay. Watching the rain clouds go the other way when we need it. Waking to the pounding of raindrops on the roof when there is hay on the ground.
The strength of will it takes for a farmer to be patient, to not cut too soon just to be doing something. The trust that’s required when you know rain at the wrong time could drastically lessen the value of your hay. The wisdom it takes as you watch the weather, the calendar, and your field at the same time.
The stress of making the decision about when to cut. The early mornings and late nights required between raking and baling. The art of baling with the dew to get just the right moisture content. The relief when it’s all baled. The thankfulness when it’s all sold.
Each year, when my farmer cuts the alfalfa, I catch a whiff of those same little purple flowers he sent me long ago. And each year, I thank God again for a man who’s as patient with me as he is with his farming.