A Simple Thing

Growing up in a small town I can remember this one simple day like it was yesterday; and the words my dad spoke to me engaged a memory that only fathers can give their sons.  I was 9 years old and it was the spring of my 3rd grade year.  We had a small tractor about the size of a riding lawn mower with a harrow plow that I had been pulling clearing tumbleweeds out of a pasture.  My dad paid me .50 cents an hour after school for my labor.  The tractor had duel wheels on the back end, and one afternoon a tumbleweed got stuck in between the two tires; and on every rotation of the tires, that weed would come around and hit me.  Now, the smart thing to do would have been to shut the tractor down and remove the mess.  When your 9, smart is something that comes later, like around 35 or so, 9 is a few springs away from smart. Anyway, I reached out with my foot to kick the tumbleweed out and my foot got caught between the duel tires. I had the rig in a low gear so I was just crawling along.  When your nine, you can bend in many ways that you can’t when your smarter at 35. There may be some correlation between smart and flexibility; anyway,  I got dragged off the tractor and twisted up pretty good; nothing got broke but the doctor put me on crutches for 4 weeks. This was a tough thing because we had the presidents physical fitness tests coming up in 5 weeks and I really wanted to do well.  Getting back to my dad’s words, it came along like this. I was moping around on my crutches one Sunday about 3 weeks before the testing. My dad was working cattle all day but took a break about mid afternoon.  I wasn’t much able to help and he saw me sitting on a tree stump feeling sorry for myself out by the forest grove when he approached me.  He asked what was wrong but I was afraid to tell him; you don’t tell a war vet, a self made man who earned a purple heart that your feeling sorry for yourself!  But this is what he said: “Listen son, if something seems like a mountain to you, it may only be a mole hill to others; but, if it’s a mountain in your eyes then it’s a mountain to me, let’s solve it together”. Only a dad can say something like this to son and make it last a lifetime.  Simple, yes, almost too simple.  My dad moved a mountain that day.

In the seventeenth chapter of Matthew, Jesus tells us about having faith the size of a mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds.  Could it be possible that our problems are more associated with our desire to grow our faith too large instead of having a very simple faith? According to Richard Rohr, a medieval Dominican mystic named Meister Eckhart said that the spiritual life has much more to do with subtraction than it does with addition.  What does it take to move mountains?  I think the country western song goes, “I’d like a little less talk and a lot more action”.

I know when you go from your teens to your twenties, thirties and so on, you become a lot more opinionated and you’re a lot less flexible.  Those things we believed in as kids, some of them we still do; at least the ones that came from dads and grandpas and uncles and men who invested in our lives.  They kept things simple so we could understand, things like mountains and mole hills and how they get moved.  When you just needed someone to care and tell you that it would be OK,  that’s important stuff when your 9.

I’ve learned many things since that day on the tree stump.  Things like the horizon is beautiful in the morning and the evening.  Responding is always better than relinquishing.  Toughness is always measured best over time.  Attitude trumps circumstances and little kids have a faith that’s pure as a mustard seed.  Ain’t it so.

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