“…establish the work of our hands for us—
yes, establish the work of our hands.”
The bike path east of town cuts diagonally through tall fields of corn that sometimes buffer prairie winds and sometimes channel it. In July, when the temperature is at 100 degrees, that narrow corridor is a wind tunnel. Back when I used it daily, I fought prairie winds all the way down, then sailed along when I came back to town.
Really dry corn makes all kinds of noise. Its leaves get stiff and curl up lengthwise, then crack against each when they get bullied by wind. I’ve never been a farmer, but I’ve lived beside 12-foot corn most of my life, and I know when to get worried. Back then we hadn’t had rain for far too long. Weeks before already, I stopped mowing when our lawn turned to toast. From a distance that section of corn along the bike path still looked emerald, but up close it was smacking and cracking.
The man who planted that particular tall corn corridor died that summer. My wife told me about his death weeks after it occurred. I’d missed it myself. Had I known, I would have gone to the funeral. Once, years ago, that man told me I ought to write a book about his life. I should have, but never did.
Cantankerous and quarrelsome, his life deserved a story. We’ll call him LeRoy and protect his memory, not because he was ever an innocent. His wife left him after a couple decades of what must have been horror. For a time, fistfights with his son were public spectacles. Once, a neighbor’s sow wandered on his yard, and LeRoy shot it dead, then called the neighbor to pick it up. That afternoon, the neighbor called the radio station to nominate LeRoy for “Good Neighbor of the Day.” The whole town laughed when he awarded the distinction.
For a time, LeRoy went to the same church we did. A friend of mine told his buddy, a Lutheran, that our church would pay for their new building project if the Lutherans would take LeRoy off our hands in the bargain.
Thanks but no thanks, the Lutheran said.
There’s more. Lots more. There should have been a book. He was never a saint. Some considered him a crackpot. Worse.
Later in his life, he mellowed, thank the Lord. I’m sure there were moments when he wished he hadn’t been what he was.
The day I heard that Leroy died I took that bike path east of town in withering heat and felt his absence because it bothered me, strangely enough, that there was no one around to worry about his corn. LeRoy would have, but he couldn’t, and he wasn’t.
I felt somehow responsible, if that makes sense. LeRoy always liked me; I’m not sure why. He didn’t like a lot of people, and he wasn’t shy about preferences. When I rode my bike through that tunnel of tall corn and heard its leaves cracking, I felt sad because I told myself he ought to be there to worry, like all farmers do.
As all of us do—about a bunch of things. When it comes to worry, most of us have fields of too dry corn.
I’ve got no crops to worry about, to cattle to feed. But I’ve got my concerns.
Like Moses, and like LeRoy, I’m sure, I often pray that God almighty will establish the works of my hands—establish these very words I’m typing. Don’t let ‘em dry in the hot sun. Keep ‘em growing and keep ‘em green, even in the heat. Make ‘em better than they are.
Moses’s agonizing concern arises from a heart estranged, someone whose thirsty soul has been languishing in the eerie darkness of an eclipse, God himself hidden. What Moses is asking for is that what he does with his hands in that wilderness where his people are serving a sentence, what he does from day-to-day, his work, his toil, his care—that all of that is blest. That’s all he wants, as do most of us. Bless it, Lord.
What he wants is nothing but good corn to feed a hungry world, something to grow up gloriously from a little more than a cracked pot.