The Five Acre Message
Dorcas reflected to herself that mowing this old pasture was a waste of diesel. She leaned against the faded wooden fence in her broad hat and mud boots and squinted through the bright Alabama humidity. The Five Acre Field, as she called it, wasn’t good enough grass to harvest for hay, and currently, she didn’t have any livestock to pasture on it. But it was right by the county road, and people would talk, so cutting was a chore that had to be done. She looked down at her yellow Labrador sitting patiently by her side. “Well Toby,” the dog cocked his head up at his workmate, “it ain’t goin’ to cut itself.” And the pair headed to the equipment shed to crank the tractor.
Toby was a faithful farm dog; he made himself useful by running off coyotes, crows, and snakes. But his most valuable contribution was companionship: Toby was by Dorcas’s side in the truck garden and the blackberry patch and in the kitchen for canning. The only chore Toby was not intimately associated with was cutting the Five Acre Field. For that activity, he would lie by the gate in the shade of the fence, head on his paws, and his brown eyes would follow his human companion as she tractored back and forth. Toby was nothing if not predictable.
Mowing was actually a relaxing activity after one got numbed to the roar of the equipment. Creating the long windrows was simple work and produced immediately positive results. Dorcas found it could be a contemplative time; good for reviewing Bible verses or praying for her grandchildren. And she had concerns to talk to God about: her health, market prices for produce, etc. Then there was the recent sense of a call to missions. Did Jesus really want her to leave all to serve Him?
Dorcas was on her third swath when she saw Toby suddenly leap up from his lazy spot, run out in the field and begin trotting alongside the tractor with its bush hog cutting deck trundling behind. He was right beside the massive rear tractor tire and just a few feet in front of the swirling bush hog blade. Dorcas was horrified, one slip and he would be run over or cut to pieces. She braked the tractor, disengaged the bush hog, and fussed at Toby.
“You crazy mutt, what are you thinking?” Toby whimpered and put his front feet on the tractor footboard. So, Dorcas grabbed his legs and pulled him all the way up. “What’s got into you, you fool hound? You never wanted to ride before.” But Toby took a seat on the limited floor space between the fender and the pedals as if he always rode shotgun.
Dorcas re-engaged the tractor and bush hog and continued mowing but now she had a new concern: Toby’s safety. She kept one hand on the steering wheel, and the other firmly gripping Toby’s collar. She was not going to let him hurt himself by jumping off. But the lab sat serenely, looking forward and panting calmly, tongue askew with the heat, rocking with the gentle motion of the big machine. In close proximity to churning tires, swirling blades, and noisy machinery, he was completely at peace under the protection of his master.
When Dorcas first heard the voice call her name, she jerked her head to look behind even though she knew it was impossible for anyone else to be on the tractor. Further, it was impossible to hear anything over the roar of the engine and the bush hog. But the voice came to her again as clear as if she was seated all by herself in church.
“Dorcas, Dorcas, I want you to trust me just as your friend is trusting you right now. I will never release my grip on you.”
Dorcas sat stunned and motionless as the tractor drove itself for a few seconds. That was all there was to be heard—just those few words. Waking up to her situation, she stopped the tractor for a second time but killed the engine this time. In the sudden quiet marked by crickets and the shimmering heat, Dorcas again looked around. But there in the middle of the half-mowed field, she and Toby were all alone. Dorcas trembled as she realized that the voice was the Lord’s.
Dorcas placed her head on the steering wheel and prayed. “Oh Lord Jesus, thank you, thank you, thank you. I love you. I will live my life trusting you.”
With his part in the message accomplished, Toby whimpered and pulled away from Dorcas’s grip. He jumped down to the freshly mown stubble and regained his shady repose by the gate. He would never again seek to ride on the tractor.
Much later Dorcas would write, “through the years, I would return to this voice of assurance, sent while mowing the Five Acre Field, over and over. In time, I would answer the call and serve Jesus in Africa. There I would see many miraculous conversions, many closed doors opened, and many impossible provisions for my needs. Just as He promised, the Lord Jesus has never released His protecting, providing grip on me.”
In His Word God promises, he will never leave you nor forsake you. And with this assurance He says further, do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. (Deuteronomy 31:8, NIV)
This is God’s relationship with each of us. He will never let us go.
Based on a true story from a farm in Alabama. Published in This Is My Story: Real Life Encounters with God's Grace, July 2021