As a boy growing up outside of Hudson, IA, I loved to wander around both the farm where my dad lived and the farm where my mom lived. There were trees to climb, tractors to drive, fields and waterways to explore, and even animals to mess around with. My dad had a creek down in the cattle pasture and I loved to go down there and go exploring. I was, and still am, an unabashed, unglorified country boy.
We did not have an excessive amount of money growing up. I knew we were on the poor side of life, but we never went hungry and we always had a roof over our heads. As hard as things were at times, I appreciate the way it shaped me into the man I am today.
Growing up country, real country, I learned about God firsthand. Not just from the beauty of His creation all around me, but from the influence of my parents and grandparents. Whether I was staying with my mom or over at my dad’s farm, going to church on Sunday mornings was just something that we did. The churches alternated between the Lutheran Church and the Church of the Brethren. My family lived their faith. They were kind to their neighbors, they cared for the animals, and they took care of the land, God’s land. God was the thread that bound together everything we did.
Today, when I watch a televangelist strutting around the stage in his Armani suit, all the while begging for money, it really makes me wonder how they grew up. It seems to me that it was very different than I did. I think that there are many times those who we see representing God doesn’t represent Him accurately.
The truth, as I see it at least, is that when God decided to send His Son down to Earth, He didn’t set him up with a cable channel and a congregation of ten thousand people in fancy suits and dresses.
Jesus grew up just as country as I did, if not more so. While the Jewish people at the time expected the Messiah to be born in a palace surrounded by royalty, the Son of God came as a baby in a manger surrounded by shepherds and their smelly sheep.
There is no doubt that I am probably biased in thinking that people who grew up in the country are more authentic than folks who are caught up in the rat race of more, bigger, and better. But what I’ve found is that country doesn’t refer to where you grew up as much as where your heart grows down, where it takes root. What ultimately defines being country is simple: a loving heart, a helping hand, an open mind, and being poor in spirit.
I would like you to take a moment and ponder the following question:
What are some ways I can cultivate the virtues of being country in my own life?
Jesus was the perfect model for how we should live our lives. Maybe we need to adopt some of His characteristics as we go through this thing called life.
There is a great passage in the book of Philippians that speaks to this very thing.
Philippians 2:3-8 (NIV)
3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
The best way we can honor God is to model our own lives after His only Son.