Stephen Covey died a few years ago, but had many brilliant insights. He wrote about a useful principle when we observe what it means to be a healthy church. He calls this principle “The Law of the Farm.” What this principle means, he writes, is that “in agriculture, we can easily see and agree that natural laws and principles govern the work and determine the harvest. But in social and corporate cultures [and we might add churches here], we somehow think we can dismiss natural processes, cheat the system, and still win the day. And there’s a great deal of evidence that seems to support that belief” (Stephen Covey, First Things First, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1994, p. 54).
For example, who has not gone to school and not known the occasional and customary urgency of cramming for school? We run out of time, and try to do a semester’s work in one night. We want a passing grade. If our aim is to get a degree, pass the subjects, and graduate, then cramming seems like the best idea in this case of educational emergency. However, if our goal is to learn and acquire and master a body of knowledge, then cramming only delays the inevitable truth that we really did not learn our lesson or lessons.
There are other areas in which we try to “cram” for life. Some stock market investors try to do this, and perhaps they prevail for a time. People, who diet, trying to fit into last summer’s swimsuit, do this cramming by diet. But we all know that physical health follows the dictates of natural law. Slow and steady is the key to healthy growth toward healthy bodies. In the short run “cramming” may appear to work in a social system, or make us look temporarily successful. However, in the long run, trying to short circuit nature and cheat the process only betrays us further on down the road.
Covey asks, “Can you imagine ‘cramming’ on the farm? Can you imagine forgetting to plant in the spring, flaking out all summer, and hitting it hard in the fall—ripping the soil up, throwing in the seeds, watering, cultivating—and expecting to get a bountiful harvest overnight?”
We all know the answers to these questions. Too bad we never seem to learn our lessons. The tortoise had it right: “Slow and steady wins the race.”