Terry's family had worked on farms his entire childhood. Every fall, he and his five brothers, father, and mother would leave Red River County and travel to West Texas to pick cotton until Christmas. He reminisced about the sight of his mother pulling a cotton sack down the row she was picking, his baby sister asleep in her mother's shadow. His stories of hard work and childhood mischief, of Sunday afternoons spent with other boys trying to hang on to the back of a bull calf, of long days and blessed, restful evenings painted pictures in my mind of a time different from the one I had known growing up.
We talked about life lessons that are learned in conjunction with the land, the changing of seasons, and the miracle of seeds sprouting and growing and yielding fruit. We talked about the patterns in nature, patterns of living and dying. At one point when I was struggling with a particularly tall thistle with a stubborn root, Terry called out to me, "You know, Amy, sin is a lot like that thistle you are wrestling with. It can look so beautiful to the eye, be so pleasing to the senses, you hardly notice the seeds are spreading until whole fields are taken over by them. Then they choke out the grass. Animals won't eat 'em. You can't cut 'em down and leave the root. They'll come right back. There is nothing to do but take the time and energy required to pull them out in one piece and fill the hole with something good."
I've thought about those days many times since then. My son has grown. The farm belongs to someone else now. But Terry's words are as fresh and alive in me as they were all those years ago, because they are true. I have had seasons of cleared fields and seasons of thistles in my own life, and thankfully some good, steady wisdom from an old Assembly of God preacher who took the opportunity to teach me about the time and energy required to do the clearing, and that part of life is learning to fill the holes with something good.
Several years after those days spent pulling thistles, I was asked to sing at the wedding of a friend's sister. She was an older bride, had grandchildren of her own. She was also a painter. When I arrived at the church on the day of her wedding, she handed me a wrapped canvas, her gift to me for singing. She said, "Amy, I stood in front of that canvas and asked God to help me think of something that would matter to you, something I could paint. I felt a little doubtful about painting weeds, but I wanted to say thank you." Inside the wrapping was an oil painting of thistles in bloom at sunset.
Read more excerpts from Amy Grant's Mosaic:
"How Did I Wind Up Here?"