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Three Generations

The keen air nipped at our fingers, and the crunch of each step reminded us how the calendar had turned. It was a fine Indiana day, and I had been invited to participate in a ritual of soil and soul. It was a day for harvesting corn, a day when the dark, rich earth yields its treasure. It was a day for an ancient rite of passage, where gray hairs and wind-chapped hands meet the eager eyes of youth.

Two massive tractors worked the field, each John Deere green. One was the combine, gobbling up whole rows of golden stalks. The second was a pure workhorse, moving loads of harvested kernels from the combine to the storage trailer.

There seemed to be a rhythm. Earth surrendered its fruit, as if responding to the steady, deep massaging of its caretakers. There was a certain respect, a mutual thankfulness.

As the second tractor moved passed me, I saw it was steered by a young boy. Sitting in his dad’s lap, high atop this green giant, his wide smile and intense eyes explained the moment. He had been knighted. Some cultures encourage boys to manhood in the ritual of a first kill, a lone expedition, or a summer cross-country trip. Some allow their boys to dig deep into the earth and to grab the wheel of a beast they tame. Passing before me was a young knight in a tractor.

A few minutes later, the large combine made a crushing, grinding noise. The driver, the grandfather of the threesome working the fields, pulled up and climbed down to the ground. He crawled under the nose of the combine, followed by his son, who was followed by his son. There they stooped, all three, poking, peering, pulling. They began to dislodge dirt and rocks, commenting on a belt that seemed to be the problem. They said little, but they worked together.

And I sat back and watched a wonderful sight: three generations kneeling on the earth. Much more than corn was harvested that day. Hope was bestowed. A future was embraced. A young heart was stirred. A boy was invited to become a man. I witnessed the passing of a heritage.

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And so it should be. But instead, many of us have lost such ancient rites of passage. We have lost our sense of heritage. We have surrendered the blessing we have to give, often because no one offered it to us. But this can be redeemed. There is still earth to be tilled, an adventure to be seized, and hope to be offered.

Dig Deeper: Deuteronomy 6

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