It takes a lot to pry a farmer from a barn full of pigs for a whole day. And let’s face it: It takes an honest-to-goodness miracle for a farmer to leave the barn for a whole three days.
But he does leave. Maybe it’s because the farmer is the miracle.
Yes, I suspect that is why he went away.
I do know that he left his denim Carhartts on the closet floor. And before he drove away, he had to search hard to find his suit, excavated from the back of the closet. He summoned me to the bedroom, and then he held up a tie to the shirt.
“Is this the one that matches?” he asked.
“Mm-hmmmm,” I winked. “You’re gonna look hot.”
I think he blushed. I do know that he rolled his eyes.
And then he planted a kiss on my cheek, hugged the girls, and drove away in his pickup truck. Someone else would take care of a few hundred pigs for the next three days.
That’s what a remade-man will do when he meets Jesus.
“Come,” the Savior beckons, “Follow me.”
And a disciple will drop his net — or in this case, his pigs — and leave.
He put the suit on late Saturday afternoon, and he said I could sneak in the back and listen as he spoke to a room full of men about Jesus.
I waited with him outside the room until he was called to the podium. And I told him how handsome he looked, wearing his tie, and his shiny shoes, and all of that startlingly beautiful Jesus-light.
He told me he wasn’t nervous. But he fidgeted with that single gold band around his left finger. And when he did that, I remembered the night I said “yes” to his proposal under the campanile at the university. He had hired a violinist to serenade us.
I remembered the way we thrashed about for years in search of life’s meaning.
He would tell part of our story to the men in the conference-room seats: “My wife seemed to be living at the same frantic pace that I was, so we got along great.”
For us, life was more about being sensations than being servants.
Let me tell you the bold-faced truth: Our spiritual life was a mess. We rarely darkened the doorway of a church. We found faux-contentment in success and money. We sought a status, not a Savior.
And we fought. Boy, did we fight. We slammed doors. In anger, I threatened the D-word a time or two. We said ugly words too often, and forgiving words too little.
Back then, I didn’t know if I even believed in Jesus. My husband, he did believe. But he didn’t follow. He said these words into the microphone Saturday afternoon: “I certainly couldn’t understand why anybody would need Jesus. If the enemy can convince me that everything is about me, why would I seek God?”
I sat in the back row, dabbing tears, reawakened once again to the astonishing ways of Christ.
Yes, it’s true: People can be cured of their hollow, self-focused living. There is no outcast, no sinner, no status-chaser, no doubter, no idol-maker, no person who is out of the reach of God’s grace.
I wanted to stand up and shout Amen when my husband said it: “God wires us so that nothing in this world is going to give us true contentment except Him.”
And my man knows it. We both know it. We lived The Chase. We wanted something more. And nothing would satisfy. I don’t tell you this now as a way to prove that I’ve got the perfect man or the perfect marriage. I don’t have either.
But we do have this: We have a perfect Jesus.
We are poor beggars at Mercy’s door, stained by our squalid pasts and our manufactured gods. We brought our Savior nothing but our mistakes. And He whispered forgiveness over us. We know He’s still doing it, because we show up at that door daily.
We have become part of the miracle. We were not beyond the reach of hope. We were not outside the scope of grace. Jesus breathed love on us, the unlovely.
So what else can a person do when he’s been rescued by relentless grace? What else can a farmer do but leave his barn full of pigs, and put on the suit jacket?
When you taste amazing grace, you don’t keep that sort of thing secret. You have to tell.
He was at the podium, when I saw the gold glint of our wedding band on his finger. It was in that moment when he pressed his fist into his palm to drive home a point. I could hear a stirring passion, a hope dripping:
“We all have a past, we have all screwed up, and we all have regrets,” he said. “But we have time left. We.have.time.left. … None of us knows how much time we have left in these mortal lives, but we can make that time count.”
And, by the looks of the parking lot, a bunch of other farmers left their cattle-yards and pig-barns because they, too, were interested in making time count. They were incapable of staying home, on account of a God who declares us unreservedly loved.