When God made Adam he didn’t stop forming man out of the ground. That’s still how he makes men, or in any case, how he made me. When God saves a man, he saves him through humility, which is to say, through the finiteness, the earthiness, that makes a man what he is. God is the great conservationist. Nothing in our lives will ever be lost to him, and nothing is worthless to his ingenuity. He will save a man however he pleases and with whatever is ready to hand. It is the geography of the soul with which God is concerned. And he will plow a man with the very ground on which he stands.
I am a Kansan by birth and upbringing. I have Kansas prairie grass ground into my skin. I sweat the Kansas rain. And the whirling dust of the Kansas wheatfield speckles my eye and gives me a particular slanted gaze. I have sat in a winter field while my dad drilled wheat for my grandpa. I have melted in the heat of a Kansas summer. I have stood in awe as a springtime thunderstorm turned to whirling chaos. And I have trod a dozen football fields of autumn. My world was embraced by a wide expansive sky. You could feel God in that embrace, even if you never saw him. My very first personal encounters with God were in the crisp winter night skies with stars as pinpoints of light, and in the moon, brilliant and clear, chasing us down the highway home. If he called those stars by name, then he knew me. Time for me was marked by four distinct seasons, creation’s gospels.
I have sat in tents praying for revival with the preacher’s cadence ringing in my ears and the fear of hell filling my heart. I’ve slept in church on my mother’s lap. And I’ve been swatted in church for not respecting God’s house. Among the first of my books was a Bible, and some of the first saints I knew were gnarled old farmers. They knew how to call on God in faith, and for all their failings taught me the same.
It’s been more than a decade since I could call a Kansas address my home. And I see it now only a couple of times a year. But I’ve consumed its earth. I’ve drunk its streams. I’ve breathed its air. It is in me. It is the way God chose long ago to save me. Kansas is God’s grace to me. And because it is, it is my home.