“Look out your window!” I shouted to my kids in the back seat. Looking up from their phones, their eyes peered at the sea of white. The cotton in the Eastern Arkansas flatlands dotted the farmland.
“That’s cool,” one of them responded, then both returned to their games.
Fixing my eyes on the fields before me, I recalled when my mom had taken me to one of these fields. Just a child, I pried the silky cotton off the stem. It felt much different from the prefabricated cotton balls from Wal-Mart — softer, more luxurious. I pinched it between my hands and felt the seeds. We took a few samples home for my mom to show her fourth grade class, and like my kids in the car, we returned to our routine.
My grandfather farmed cotton before machines rendered the work less laborious. My mom virtually lived in the cotton fields during her childhood, and my dad earned spending money as a youth picking cotton. But they both went to college and cotton farming became a thing of their past.
Only Four Generations
Driving down endless straight stretches, I considered the generational pull away from cotton farming in my family:
For my grandfather, it was his life — his livelihood from dawn to dusk.
For my parents, it was a summer job.
For me, it was a hands-on object lesson during one of our visits to their hometown.
And for my children, it was a drive-by recounting of my children’s ancestral heritage.
The thought struck me: is my family’s generational abandonment of cotton farming similar to our society’s generational abandonment of faith?
Is this why Moses went to such great lengths to command the generation entering the Promised Land to teach their children diligently of God’s works? He knew the natural cycle of people. He knew that every generation removed from the miracles of the Promised Land would be a generation tempted to abandon God and go their own way.
And he was right.
Within just four generations in my family, cotton farming went from central way of life to passing knowledge.
Similarly, in just a few generations, faith in God can descend from central way of life to a head-nod.
From Central to Peripheral
We can see this all around us. We’re living it. In just one generation I’ve watched church pushed from central in our lives to the periphery. When I was a child, for example, sports activities on Sundays or Wednesdays would have never been heard of. And it’s not only on Sundays and Wednesdays. We’re filling our calendar so full that we have to decide whether we even have time and energy for church at all. This is just one example.
It’s easy to place the blame of the moral decay of society on our country. But I contend the blame rests on the shoulders of God’s people and our failure to keep God central in our lives — and teach our children to do the same. Instead, with a little compromise here and a little compromise there, the fourth generation doesn’t even know the God of their lineage.
Our children and grandchildren are the ones who will pay the price. If we don’t place God in His rightful place in our lives, we can’t expect our children to.
From Peripheral to Central
We, as parents, have both the opportunity and the responsibility to stop the downward cycle.
If I wanted to return to growing cotton as my grandfather did, I’d have to make some major changes: tilling the land, buying seed, tending to the crops, working at harvest. In other words, I would have to change many aspects of my lifestyle to accommodate such a life change.
If we as families want faith in God central in our homes and lives, what steps do we need to take? And are we willing to make those sacrifices for the sake of our children?