Teachable Moments

Today I accompanied a number of students from Sunshine Bible Academy to a local ranch. The 9th through 11th graders are scattered around the state right now for SBA’s annual Servant Days, so some of the younger students and their teachers thought that it would be a good idea for them to get involved in some kind of service project, too. The rancher we went to help had already harvested his corn, but there was–as I assume there always is–corn left behind after the harvest, and this rancher wanted to collect that corn to feed to his livestock. (Disclaimer: I am not a farmer, have no experience with farming, and may use some terminology incorrectly in the process of this entry. Your understanding is appreciated).

So, each older student had a five gallon bucket and was accompanied by a younger student as they walked through rows of harvested corn looking for corn that had been left behind. They would pick up the corn, shuck it, drop it in the bucket and eventually, when the bucket got full, empty it into the bed of one of the 4-wheel farm vehicles in the field. (I got to drive a John Deere Gator. And that, believe it or not, I had done before. But this one was completely enclosed–a huge benefit with the South Dakota wind!)

As I was helping one set of students collect corn I could not help but think of the biblical account of Ruth gleaning in Boaz’s field. I asked the younger student if she remembered that biblical story, and, when she said she did, told her that Ruth did something very much like what were doing. After Boaz’s workers had harvested the wheat, Ruth went behind them and gathered wheat that had been left behind. She would then take it home so that she and Naomi would have something to eat. The student seemed to catch the similarity, and also added, “But I don’t think we are taking the corn home.” You have to love the literal mindedness of so many elementary students (especially when the student in question happens to be your daughter!)

Now, I am not sharing this to pat myself on the back, but to point out how we are called to take advantage of teachable moments when they arise. We read in Deuteronomy that parents have the responsibility to teach their children about the Lord “when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:7, ESV). Not that we will be gleaning corn every day, or find ourselves in situations that so clearly correlate to Bible stories–but that is not the point, nor is it necessary. It should be possible to identify teachable moments every day. Of course, before we can identify them and use them to teach biblical truth, something else has to happen. Before we can teach about the Lord when we sit in our house, walk by the way, lie down or rise, we must be thinking about the Lord when we sit in our house, walk by the way, lie down or rise.

Even when we are not consciously and intentionally thinking about the Lord as we go about our daily activities, if we are in a right relationship with Him we will find that He will teach us things, reinforce biblical truths and call to mind lessons we have learned and things He has done as we go along our merry way. Sharing the story of Ruth with my daughter today is but one example of the things that I thought about while I was in that corn field. After a while, I was not right with my daughter and Staci (the 8th grader she had buddied with) any longer. I found myself walking through a harvested row by myself looking for stray ears of corn. As I did so, another biblical story came to mind–that of the prodigal son.

I am sure you are familiar with the story. After wasting his inheritance on “riotous living” the young man found himself employed to feed pigs. He was in such dire straits that he found himself longing after the pig slop he was dishing out to the hogs. This came to mind because I was thinking about the fact that I was collecting corn that would be fed to livestock. In the state that corn was in, I would not eat it. Yet, how often have I been guilty of wasting my time, talents and treasure on the things the world has to offer–and even found myself longing after the slop that the world has in abundance–when my Father has the very best and He would love for me to come back to Him to partake of it.

One other thing came to mind as I was gleaning corn today. As I would pick up ears of corn I would remove the shucks and drop it to the ground. Only, thanks to the strong South Dakota wind, it rarely fell straight to the ground. It would blow away. The corn shucks are thin, light and weak, and when confronted with a gusting wind they no choice but to go wherever the wind blew it. And quite frankly, I didn’t care where it went, because it has no value. It was worthless to me, and to the rancher I was helping. That reminded me to the fact that my works on this earth will someday be separated like wheat from the chaff. I know that wheat and chaff and corn and shucks are not exactly the same thing (give me some credit!), but I think the point is the same. I have seen threshing floors and even learned about the various ways that wheat and chaff was separated during colonial times. One way that I saw demonstrated at George Washington’s Mount Vernon was to lay the harvested wheat on a blanket, beat it with an implement designed for the purpose, and then, with people at each corner, lift the blanket, and toss the contents into the air. The wheat is heavy enough that it would fall back down to the blanket (just like the corn would fall to the ground if I dropped it). The chaff, however, is light, and it would be blown away by the wind–just like the corn shucks. Someday all of the worthless things that I do will be blown away too. Or burned in the fire.

The Bible is full of agricultural metaphors for spiritual lessons. As a new resident of a state with lots of agriculture, I suspect I may find myself picking up on many more reminders of Bible lessons. But working on a ranch or living in the country is not a requirement for finding opportunities to be reminded of biblical truth in our everyday lives. Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, be open to the still, small voice of God. You will find plenty of teachable moments–when He will teach you something, and when you can teach others.

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