Stubbornness runs so deep in the roots of my family tree that only a divine crowbar could remove it. It makes for an interesting family life, fraught with frustration, inflexibility and sometimes downright hilarity.
When I was a little girl, my sisters and I grew up in Virginia, close to the Blue Ridge Mountains. We had a garden in the backyard filled with corn, tomatoes, beans, okra, peppers, potatoes among other vegetables. Having been raised on a farm, my Father tended his garden meticulously, tilling, planting, fertilizing, hoeing and protecting his plants from fierce weather and frisky scavengers. My sisters and I were never allowed in the garden without our Father with us so when we walked behind him through the rows of vegetables, I always felt like I was walking on hallowed ground. If we’d been playing in the backyard and a ball sailed over into the garden, we’d have to wait until Dad got home to retrieve it. That garden was his pride and joy and it thrilled him to provide Mom with produce for the dinner table.
One weekend we went to visit our grandparents in Tennessee. We waded in the creek, played with our cousins and enjoyed our grandmother’s cooking. Sunday came and we packed up for the 4-hour drive home. However, on this particular visit, my Father had a plan that did not go over very well with my Mother.
Since vegetables from his parents’ garden tasted the best, he believed that the fertilizer on his father’s farm was the key. He started shoveling dried cow manure in a garbage bag. My Mother was appalled. What was he doing?!
And here, the stubborn streak from both sides of the family reared its ugly head as we watched our parents back and forth like a tennis match. She dug in deep. He dug in deeper.
You are NOT taking that back with us!
This cow manure is the best fertilizer for our plants.
Can’t you get fertilizer in Virginia?
Not like this fertilizer.
The cow manure is staying!
The cow manure is going!
My Father won the battle. He hoisted the garbage bag on the top of our station wagon and tied the foul-smelling thing down. We said our goodbyes to grandparents, climbed into the car and started off. We traveled around hairpin curves, passing other farms until we finally got to the main highway. That’s when we picked up speed. And that’s when everything hit the fan…so to speak.
Not long into our trip and still incensed that we were carrying a load of cow manure on our car, Mom looked in the mirror and saw that the fertilizer her husband had tied down was flying out behind us. When Dad picked up speed on the highway, the wind ripped a hole in the garbage bag and cow crap was flying out from our car and hitting the windshield of the poor guy driving behind us. Mom was mortified. Dad took the first exit off the highway, pulled into a McDonald’s parking lot and tied down the foul-smelling fertilizer for the drive home. Mom was so embarrassed she probably slunk down in her seat.
I don’t recall how much fertilizer made it home that day or if our garden veggies tasted particularly good in the coming months. But I do know that was the last time Dad hauled cow manure home from the farm.
God has a way of humbling us when we stubbornly refuse to yield. He hates pride but He loves us. So He turns our stubborn decisions into lessons for us to learn. Some are funny and some hurt.
I used to think stubbornness was a good quality, that it meant not backing down and fighting for what you believe in. I imagine my Scottish ancestors would agree with that. But then I read in I Samuel* that stubbornness is really making an idol of your own desires. It’s manipulating people to do what you want them to do. You may as well reposition your crown and withhold your royal scepter from the unfortunate fellow who has to deal with you. Stubbornness has nothing to do with freedom and freedom is God’s desire for every single one of us. And when we choose to be stubborn, we smell about as lovely as my Father’s favorite fertilizer.
There are times when you should fight for what you believe in and not back down. But those are typically times when you’re standing up for something much bigger than yourself, like justice or equality. I would call that unwavering resolution and determination, not stubbornness.
When I tell Dad about the time he let the cow crap fly, he laughs so hard that he cries. And anytime you laugh to the point of tears, that’s always a good thing.
*I Samuel 15:23