Me and My Ducks
This morning I was sitting on the front porch alone, reading my Bible and praying, when a movement in the yard caught my attention. It was Mary, one of our resident ducks, come to pay me a visit. Behind her were a couple of males who seem to follow her wherever she saunters (ducks do not “walk”). I watched the way they looked at me, their eyes telling me they were expecting a handout. Not during my devotions, came my wordless stare, and off they waddled to find some food on their own.
Their visit suddenly got me thinking about how improbable my life has been. What am I doing sitting on the porch of a faux 1820s ante-bellum farmhouse in southern Virginia? I grew up far away from a farming community. I was born and raised on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean surrounded by fluted cliffs and pristine shorelines. I like to joke that I’m from the “southernmost state in the union,” but that’s what Hawaii really is if you look at a map. One of the biggest events in my childhood was making a trip to the “Big, Big Island” (which is what we called the mainland). I came back to Oahu with vivid memories of the breadth of Pennsylvania, the ruggedness of western Montana, the noise of New York City. In Hawaii we knew nothing of such things. Our family lived close enough to Kailua Beach that I found myself surfing there almost every day, even when there weren’t any waves to speak of (surfers are the world’s greatest optimists). The only thing I knew about farm life was what I read in the series, The Adventures of the Hardy Boys.
When I turned 18 my dream was to study the Bible at Biola and then graduate and become a – well, I had no idea what I wanted to become. Back in those days we Jesus Freaks led a fairly simple and simplistic existence of reading the Bible and trying to make sense out of life. At that time I had long hair and wore mariachi sandals just like all of my friends. But I knew I was changing. I can still vividly remember my first 747 flight when I left Hawaii to attend Biola in 1971. As we rounded Diamond Head and I looked down on Kailua and Waimanalo and Kaneohe, I knew one thing: When I returned in December for Christmas break, Hawaii would never feel like home again.
And it never did.
While I was in college something was drawing me to study New Testament and Greek more than any other course of study. I was especially drawn to Dr. Harry Sturz, the Greek professor at Biola. He was the kind of man who kept quiet when everyone else was shouting. He was the kind of man who studied his Bible (in Greek, of course) and prayed and encouraged others all during the day. He lived a genuine faith. It was his influence that prompted me to study for my doctorate in New Testament at the University of Basel. That was way back in 1980, though it seems like yesterday. Thus began a career of teaching and writing at places like Biola, Simon Greenleaf University, Talbot, Grace Seminary, and now at Southeastern Seminary.
It was just after arriving in North Carolina that my life took a new and unexpected turn. To make a long story short, the Lord gave Becky and me a desire to return to her Virginia roots (William Bradford is her lineal ancestor), to begin homesteading on a “real” farm instead of the small 8-acre ranch we had purchased in North Carolina, and to establish a retreat ministry like that of Francis and Edith Schaeffer’s L’Abri. We eventually purchased a 123-acre farm and made the move to rural Virginia. We knew in making the move there would be lots of dramatic changes in our life and a lot of unknowns, but we would trust God to guide us on the way.
This morning, sitting on the porch alone, I was reminded of this strange pilgrimage of mine from the beach at Kailua to the fields of the Southland. I looked again at my inquisitive visitors and a feeling of wonder swept over me. How special these animals are to me. And how wonderful it is to see them on our farm, for they, too, are transplants (we bought them in Carolina). They seem to feel happy and at home.
And so do I.
September 20, 2007
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.