God said, "I need somebody willing to sit up all night with a newborn colt. And watch it die. Then dry his eyes and say, 'Maybe next year.'
Paul Harvey made a speech in 1978 called 'So God Made a Farmer.' I heard it for the first time this February during a Super Bowl ad for Dodge Ram Trucks. At the time, Joey was sitting on the couch, cradling a newborn lamb that wasn't doing well. When the commercial came on, we both were silent, gripped by the man's voice that seemed to be speaking directly to us and our trials and the uncertainties of lambing season. The images of trucks and farmers across America did not matter as much as that man's voice. I immediately wanted to hear it again.
Later that night, I found Paul Harvey's original broadcast on YouTube and I listened to it over and over. I emailed the link to my sister. I thought about his words, almost like a sermon that was speaking to me, confirming the reasons Joey and I want to be farmers. It is a short speech, but it is spoken with such conviction and reassurance about the value of this life, the purpose of those that choose not just to sit in a GPS-driven combine and harvest thousands of acres of corn, but for those farmers that choose to nurture life on a smaller scale. Those of us who sit in darkened living rooms with weak lambs on our laps, praying we've done enough. Those of us who plant seeds on our hands and knees and then wait for the rain. Paul Harvey speaks to us.
And Joey reminded me of this last night when we lost another lamb. She became so sick over the course of a few hours, there was nothing we could do but wait for her to die and be free from pain. And the worst part was the realization that I wanted her to die. In a matter of fifteen minutes I went from hoping there was a solution to knowing there was no hope. Joey left me in the barn with her so he could run over to the neighbor's and ask for advice. Alone in the barn with a dying lamb, her mother incessantly baaing, all I could do was stand there, listening to the rustling of the birds that were flying in and out above my head and feel completely helpless. Joey finally returned and I told him I didn't think there was any solution. And at that point I just wanted it to be quick. I felt like I was turning my back on her, I just wanted it over.
Once again, I knew that I couldn't do this alone. Without Joey by my side, I couldn't handle the part of farming that involves death. I'm not strong enough, and I'm not sure I want to be. I know that this is the life I want to be living. To know the adrenaline rush of joy at new life, to feel a greater power's presence when a new lamb takes its first unsure steps, is greater than anything I ever would have experienced if I had not chosen to follow Joey here. But to feel my own baby kicking inside of me and know that a mother sheep is about to lose her first lamb weighed heavily on my heart.
But on days like today, when I watched Grace sniff at the three remaining lambs and not find her own, I feel grief and guilt but I also feel the grace of life. It is hard, and it goes by quick, and it can be taken away at any moment, so it is important to live a life you love. God needs those who are willing to take the risk of placing our lives on the backs of sheep that will eventually die, in a field of pumpkins that can be wiped out by squash bugs, in a hen house that can be raided by raccoons, or in cornfields that can be ravaged by drought.
So God made a farmer.
And we dry our eyes and say "maybe next year." And give thanks for three healthy lambs.
Check out Paul Harvey here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xvm4zCsO0Jw