excerpted from Life and Times of Billy Ryman, First King of America
The farm flourished and the staff continued to increase alongside the profits. The north property was purchased for a small fee, and construction began immediately on a new home for Billy and his growing family.
During construction, a very old oak tree was felled to make way for the back bedrooms, and Billy decided to use the wood. The tree had been in that spot for generations, tall, thick, strong, and mighty. It only seemed appropriate to honor the tree’s memory in the house that now stood in its place.
Billy ordered the wood cut and set aside until the house was complete. Then he got to work. He sawed and hammered, cut and drilled, sanded and stained, until he had completed a coffee table of impressive size.
He brought Sarah and his workers to the barn where he had constructed the table and had each of them carve their name into the legs of the table. Then he helped his worker, George, move the heavy table into his office in the new house.
“This table will stand in my office as a reminder of the great oak tree which once stood in this place, and as a reminder of all the people who have loved and supported me in this new venture,” he told George as they placed the table in the room.
Near the beginning of the harvest, George woke up especially early one day and went outside. As was his custom, he began strolling the fields and wondering at the good fortune of his friends. But there was something troubling him as he inspected the long rows of tilled earth. He ran back to the house to tell Billy.
Flying through the heavy front door and bounding through the kitchen and the den, he found the boss in his home office. Billy was seated behind a larger-than-life wooden desk. It weighed about a thousand pounds, and he had about a thousand pounds of paperwork spread around him in a great mess. Panting from his run, George said, “There’s trouble with the field, Guv.”
“What’s that, George? What kind of trouble?” Billy asked, pulling the reading glasses off his face and fixing his eyes on his employee with concern.
“Weeds.” There was an edge of defeat in George’s voice, but Billy wasn’t one to react strongly before he knew the whole situation.
“We always have weeds,” said Billy calmly. “What’s special about these?”
“There’s a lot of ‘em,” George replied. He led Billy into the fields to see the truth of it. Everywhere there were heads of grain sprouting, there were weeds mixed in and among them. They were so thick, it was difficult to even see the grain in some spots.
“Didn’t you use good seed?” Billy asked his English friend. As he surveyed the damage to the fields, the sense of dread that had started in the pit of his stomach grew.
“Oh aye,” said George. “The best.”
“Then how has this happened?” asked Billy, fearing he already knew the answer.
“An enemy has done this,” George replied.
“I know not. But that doesn’t get so bad by its lonesome. Someone’s been helping that, they have.” Billy considered this possibility, wondering at his adversary. Who would do such a thing to him? To his wife? And why? “But look Guv,” George continued, his face brightening as he jerked a thumb in the direction of the troublesome fig tree. “Not everything’s a loss then, innit?” And, miracle upon miracles, the barren fig tree on the property had not only bloomed recently, but abundantly.
“I thought those bloom earlier in the year?” Billy asked. He knew he should be excited at this news, but the problem of the enemy who had sown the weeds gnawed at him.
“Soon as the leaves come you know summer’s here. But I wasn’t looking.” George laughed to himself. “I was too busy with the fields.”
Billy laughed, too, but he was forcing it. He was trying to think of who he might have wronged or who might hold something against him enough to damage his crops in this way. “Don’t pull up the weeds just yet,” he told George.
“You may uproot the wheat, too. Best let them both grow until we’re ready to harvest, then we can get Claude to collect the weeds and burn them. He can store the wheat in the barn.”
The question of Billy’s enemy ate away at him, night and day, for many months. Though he racked his brain, trying to figure out who may have done this, he could not find anyone to blame. He was a fair and honest man, and he was careful to treat every person with respect. Going through the years in his mind, he remembered the uneasiness he had felt when arranging to purchase the fields from the previous owner, Mr. MacIntyre, but shrugged the feeling off. He had no reason to suspect the man. And yet, the uneasy feeling lingered.
That year, the farm suffered a painful loss due to the weeds, and it was a difficult time for Billy, his wife, and all of their employees. The enemy did not appear again; indeed, he would not reveal himself for some time, but his work was ever on the mind of the new landowner.
and Matthew 13.24-30
Dr. David McDonald is the teaching pastor at Westwinds Community Church in Jackson, MI. The church, widely considered among the most innovative in America, has been featured on CNN.com and in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and Time Magazine. David weaves deep theological truths with sharp social analysis and peculiar observations on pop culture. He lives in Jackson with his wife, Carmel, and their two kids. Follow him on twitter (@fossores) or online at fossores.com