Dateline: 10 May 2006
In my book, Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian, I tell the story of my debt-free home. I tell how I don’t like banks and would never go to one for a loan to build my home. I tell how, twenty-one years ago, my father-in-law, Jay Myers, loaned Marlene and I $10,000 to get a start building our house. And, since then, we have slowly expanded it and worked to get it finished. We are still working at it. Last weekend I got the electrical inspection done in the 12ft by 14ft addition I framed on the back of the house a year ago. Now it is insulated and drywalled and I hope to paint this weekend.
It’s not a big house and it’s not a beautiful house, but it’s solid and looking more respectable as time passes, and it is our home. It sets on only 1.5 acres of land, most of which is woods and gully. My dream is to one day have more land—a farm with our home on it. My boys share in this dream too. A stand of hardwood, some field for pasture, a stream, perhaps even a pond, would be nice. These things would give us more room to establish home-based agrarian enterprises.
I envision my sons, with families of their own, living close by, perhaps even on the same land. I envision the land being held in a family trust. I envision the woodland being wisely and sustainably harvested for generations. I envision grandchildren growing up in this place, loving it, caring for it. It is fun to envision such things.
But that’s just part of the dream. I also dream of owning this land with a home on it debt free! Now there is a dream for you! Some would say it is a pipe dream— especially for a guy like me with a relatively meager job and financial resources.
I do not have a college degree and have never had a high-paying job. Ours is a single income family. Most of our married life, we have struggled to get by. Only in the past 6 years have I had a job that pays steady and relatively well. I have not made stock market investments that returned big bucks, and I have not inherited a lot of money. Years ago, my grandmother indicated to me that I would receive an inheritance from her. When she died a couple years ago, I thought maybe the dream would become a reality, but it did not. As is so often the case, things don’t always work out the way
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m a blessed man and I know it full well. The Lord has been good to me and my family and we live the good life here. We have been blessed more than we deserve. I am also a thankful and contented person (read the chapter on contentment in my book for more on that subject). But still, I have this vision and, until the Lord directs me otherwise, I am pursuing it. I am painting the picture of my situation for you here because, in the event that the Lord does “bring us into the new land,” it is going to be a truly remarkable thing.
Some Christians will, upon reading of this, think to themselves that my vision for family land is all wrong. They might think that I should, instead, be doing something like establishing a big evangelical ministry that will win souls to Christ. Or, perhaps, they will think that my focus should be on making lots of money in business or industry so I can support a big evangelical ministry that will win souls to Christ. Or maybe they will think my vision is too worldly and self-centered; that I should do something else, like become a missionary and go to spread the gospel in different lands.
Well, the older I get, the more I see that God works in the hearts of His people in different ways. Some Christians are called to ministry in one way, others in another. All are called to bear witness to the glory of God. With that in mind, it seems to me that a family, anchored by roots that go deep in a rural place, nourished by a simple Christian faith, a faith that is humble, loving, caring, forgiving, and generous, can bring glory to God and build the kingdom of Jesus Christ in a very profound and lasting way.
I have, on more than one occasion, sat in the pew and listened to a preacher say that family can become an idol. The inference being that more parishoners need to get involved in church ministry outreach. I have a problem with that line of reasoning.
While it is certainly possible for family to become an idol, I don’t see that as a big problem in our modern, mainstream culture, or in the modern Christian culture, which, in so many ways, reflects the mainstream.
The much bigger problem is that men and women are neglecting their homes and families to acquire wealth, prestige, some form of greater power, or to pursue personal pleasure. I dare say more men make idols of their career or even their fishing equipment than their family. And let us keep in mind that one can also make an idol out of Christian ministry—even a ministry committed to reaching out and winning souls to Christ.
How many men in Christian ministry put such tremendous energy and effort into their ministry while neglecting to be the fathers they should be to their children? I’ll tell you how many...Lots. How many people in the church, endeavoring to serve the Lord, do so at the expense of their families? Plenty. How many decent people in churches are guilt-manipulated to serve in so many church outreach misistries only to burn out from overcommittment? I’ve seen my share. There must be a balance.
Did God establish the institution of the family in the Old Testament, only to have godly men forsake it in the New Testament? I say no way. We must follow Jesus and tend to the responsibilities of being fathers and mothers to our children. Indeed, to raise our children to know God, to fear Him, to embrace His salvation, to love His word, and to glorify Him all their lives is following Jesus. Everything else falls into place when faith and family are in focus and in balance.
All of which makes me think of something related to this matter... I am not theologically confident—nor theologically arrogant—enough to condemn modernized methods of Christian mass proselytization (i.e. televangelism) because God’s word, even in the hands of emotionally theatric and crass purveyors is still powerful and compelling and it brings lost people to Christ. But so many conversions from the techno-industrial evangelical methods are shallow and short-lived. And, by the way, have you seen “christian” stand-up comedians on the television? I have, and I’m not edified by watching these people. I fail to see how God is glorified by their antics. I could go on, but I think you get the idea.
In stark contrast to the mass approach or to church outreach programs run by overcommitted and over stressed mothers and fathers, is that of godly families, living simply on the land, worshiping God in their humble churches and in their daily lives, being good neighbors, being salt and light in their communities. I can’t help but think these people can be a far more sincere, effective and long lasting witness for Jesus Christ now—and in the generations to follow—than so many evangelical outreach schemes.
But, alas, I have digressed from my initial topic. And, oh my, I think I've been much too opinionated. Oh well, In my next blog entry I’ll return to the subject of my family vision and how we are endeavoring to get there from here.