In the latter weeks of 2019 and as we charge into the 2020 year, as I have been anticipating my retirement on Feb. 29 I have been going through the processes of rearranging things I want to keep, eliminating things I don’t need, and thinking and rethinking about the stuff I’ve accumulated over 56 years of preaching and ministry. One of the items I ran across was a monument I picked up years ago when I was in Enterprise, Alabama. There is in the downtown area of Enterprise a monument that stands out in the middle of the street. It has a lady holding a boll weevil above her head.
The monument to the boll weevil is a one-of-a-kind statue, and though the one there in town is several feet high, mine is a few inches high but I got one to remember that experience. The plaque beneath the lady holding the boll weevil up above her head said, “In profound appreciation for the boll weevil.” It went on to tell how much they appreciated the boll weevil coming through Alabama’s southern part in 1919 that destroyed their cotton crop.
I had heard about the monument and heard about what had taken place a number of times through the years, so while I was in Enterprise I went to see monument to the boll weevil. I bought me a statue I have kept through the years not just as a remembrance of that time, but of the actual impact of the devastation that came when the boll weevil moved in and destroyed the cotton crop in South Alabama.
The reason it’s so significant is that because of the boll weevil infestation, a new crop came into being in South Alabama that has become one of the main industries for the folks down there for years and years. That is the peanut crop. Being a connoisseur of peanuts and enjoying eating peanuts more than I do eating cotton, I appreciate the boll weevil too. It became emblematic of what I’ve been going through over the past few months as I step-by-step get closer to my retirement date.
When you think about it, the monument to the boll weevil is somewhat in step with what the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” God can take the worst of things and make it good. Sometimes good things become bad things and even then, they can become good again. So as I was packing up some stuff up and picked up the old monument to the boll weevil, I again thought of so many life experiences to which that verse applies and becomes a reality that we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. When God is working His purpose in your life and in mine, three things become evident.
One — sometimes things that look good can become bad. Sometimes they get messed up and sometimes they just turn sour. What looked so good and we thought was so wonderful didn’t stay that way at all. A few years ago it was just about a week before Easter, I came across some folks that had some baby ducks. They had dyed the ducks blue and red and yellow. They were running around everywhere, pretty as they could be, dyed for Easter. It just struck me standing there seeing all those little cute ducks, all of which were for sale, and I thought to myself, “How wonderful it would be to give a duck to each one of my grandkids.” They were so precious, and I knew the grandkids would absolutely adore them. I thought their moms and dads would also be thrilled to have the little ducks running around, so I made arrangements to get eight of the breathtakingly cute little ducklings.
Eight of them, and I brought them home to nurture and care for several days before Easter arrived. Well, you can imagine how excited the grandmother was when I brought them home. How are we going to keep these things? What are you going to do with them? Where are you going to keep them up? Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Yeah… it was an interesting time. What I thought was so wonderful wasn’t interpreted that way when I got home, and as the days went by what looked so good began to turn bad. Still, the kids and their faces and their excitement and their love for the ducks would overcome any of the opposition that was out there, I thought. Sure enough we made it all the way to Easter and Easter Sunday when all the grandkids were over at the house and eating together and then got ready to leave, that was an important time. When they got ready to leave and go to their homes I presented them, one-by-one, a precious, beautiful, little ole duck to take with them to feed and care for and watch it grow.
Along with watching it grow was all the feeding and care and mess that a duck can provide all around your porch and your house and your whatever. I believe every one of the parents of the grandkids will never forget that Easter and never forget the precious gift I gave their children, for what looked so good pretty soon became bad.
The truth is there are a lot of things in all of our lives that looked good, were thought to be good, maybe were kind of good, but as time marches on aren’t quite as good as we thought. Sometimes physically, sometimes mentally, sometimes spiritually, it becomes bad and we know all things work together and I can tell you without going into too much detail the ducklings that looked so good became bad and ended up in some ponds around the neighborhoods where they finished up their lives. After a few months or years, all of them went on to their eternal reward.
That brings me to a second thought about the whole cycles of life: there are some things that look bad and they become good. That is the very story of the monument of the boll weevil. What looked so bad, a lost crop and no way to grow cotton that would not be eaten and ruined by the boll weevils, the people wondered what were they going to do. Just throw up their hands and do nothing? Just complain about the boll weevil all the time or change crops? Do a different thing? Go a different way? Plant peanuts? Boll weevils don’t eat peanuts and sure enough, almost without knowing what they were doing, the industry of planting and harvesting peanuts was born in South Alabama.
We don’t often think about it, but so many times things that really are bad, tough, and hard to deal with become good. Think about all the things that are part of your everyday life that one time were such difficult, unbelievable, insurmountable kinds of events in life, and now are such a good part of your life. I think about the one through 12 multiplication tables we had to learn and now we just know that 2×2=4, 8×8=64, and things that just literally are etched on the front edge of our brains for life were such an incredible struggle when we were just young, grade school kids. Multiplication looked so bad and became so good. There are so many academic exercises with which we get involved that look difficult and bad, but become good.
Maybe with most of the cycles of life where we move from one age and stage to another or move toward retirement, and in so doing begin to realize all the mental and emotional and even physical gymnastics that we’re going through, we think it is bad only to find that it can be good. The verse rings again and we know that all things work together for good to them that love the Lord. That God is at work even when it doesn’t look good, He’s making it good. You and I can celebrate that together.
There’s a third thought I just would throw out there from my monument to the boll weevil, and that would be for the believer all things are in the hands of God and can be made good for us by our caring Lord. That, my friends, is true. He can take the worst of life’s situations and turn it around. He can take the best of life’s situations and make them even better. When we walk with Him, He is constantly working on us, in us, for us, to make all things work for good. Oh, I know because of our limited vision and understanding things look differently, are different from what we’ve ever seen, and we wonder how they can work for good. My brother, my sister, trust God and you will see the good that can come. Good that God will work. Good for you and those around you who love the Lord that God is going to bring about good. He can. He will. He does.
As I move from one phase of life and venture into another, there are those crisscrossing paths out there that I wonder, how can this be good? How is that going to be for good? How is God going to work that? In one situation after another, reflecting again on the powerful Word of God, we know that all things work together for good to them that love the Lord to those who are called according to His purpose. We trust Him and follow Him and we see Him do the good things in our lives.
The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr. Jim Futral