An Affliction of Conviction
By Timothy W. Tron
The cold gray light of dawn had yet to reach the brink of my window sill. Somewhere over the mountain, the light had yet to reach this side of the morn. Like waves crashing upon the rocks of a distant shore, I could hear, but I could not hear. The words of the young man from the day before returned; thoughts of music and farming combining as one. As he spoke, my mind reflected on the scripture references: ashes to ashes, dust to dust, as we are one with the earth from whence, we came.
I placed my materials at the judge’s table well in advance of the start of the days Fiddler’s Convention. As I returned with a fresh cup of coffee, a young man settled into my left, he too being a judge for the morning’s event.
“William Ritter,” he said as we shook hands.
To his left, another judge began to sit down. They had known one another from other encounters and began to strike up a conversation of coming events, dances, and such. I casually listened as I watched folks of all ages filtering into the Lynnville Falls ballroom of the Plemmons Student Center at Appalachian State University where we were part of the 11th annual Fiddler’s Convention. Our morning was to start with the youth guitar competition. Voices filled the chamber as I serenely sipped the bitter brew. Eventually, the keywords struck my ear that seemed to be a bit at odds, “Heirloom seeds and music.”
“Did I hear you correctly,” my attention now turned fully to the bearded young man sitting next to me?
During the course of their conversation, I had come to understand that they had connections through Warren Wilson College, where sustainable agriculture was taught and practiced. William had mentioned speaking at one of the events they had been talking about on the subject of heirloom seeds, music, and their connection.
“Tell me more,” I asked, now fully vested in understanding his perspective; my own had already been retrieved and ready to compare. He shared how we too often take for granted those seeds that which are passed down from one generation to the next, and how much richer and sweeter those fruits and vegetables taste when compared to generic, run of the mill seeds purchased at your local farm supply store.
Nodding my head in agreement, I fully understood where he was going. He went on to say how old-time music is much the same, how society doesn’t appreciate the traditional music and how it is passed down from one generation to the next; it too having a much richer and sweeter disposition upon the soul than other forms of music.
“It is our affliction,” I said to him. He paused in reflection, thinking deeply about what I had said. You could tell he wanted to dig deeper, but before we could embark further, the emcee for our judging event called the program into order, and the participants began to perform, one after another. In our short, but rewarding time together, William and I found a common thread and bond.
Reflecting back to that moment, there had been so much more to convey that had sprung forth from that beginning. Like a seed being planted, those purposeful words of heirloom seeds and music, so too was our faith passed down from one generation to the next. Either one of which, that may be dropped, perpetuates a loss to the coming generations; their ancestral ties to the truth become endangered. Someone once said, “We are one generation away from apostasy.”
As surely as I awoke this morning, I knew in my heart that God had planted me next to William Ritter for a purpose yesterday. Inside of me, there was a renewed sense of being and what the Lord had called me to do. The words, “Afflicted to be Convicted,” came to mind. I sat up in bed, searching for pen and paper in the dark before the words left me.
My life had been one of working the land, while soothing music reconnected my spirit to God. A vision of the past began to take hold. In it, there stood a figure in the cold light of day, there were no shadows, only the gray, bleakness of late winter. The boy picked up a handful of the dark earth and crumbled the rich soil through his fingertips. As tiny remnants of dirt slipped through his hand, he pulled his fist close to his face and inhaled, smelling the deep aroma of rich humus. His mind drifted back to the garden just outside Grandma Tron’s tiny kitchen window.
It was early spring, and it was the dark of the moon. Easter was near. The family had been called in for the celebration of Good Friday. The cherry trees would soon be blossoming at the Roofless Church. Whenever the family gathered, they also came to work together. A Tron was not content to just sit; they had to keep busy. It was time for putting in the potato sets for the year’s garden, and Grandma had the troops fully deployed. Most of the blooms on the trees and bushes had yet to come forth; summer was still a distant thought, but we knew if Grandma had said it was time to plant, then it was time to plant. The dirt was cool to the touch as his hands dug one hole after another, placing the sets carefully so that the eyes were facing up. Behind him, a cousin was following, laying straw into the bed, covering the seedlings, as yet, another cousin followed the other, pulling the soil back over both, tucking them into bed for their eventual resurrection. Grandma worked alongside us, whistling old hymns in the sweetest refrains. We often tried to mimic her, but our lips could never sustain the sweetness to which she carried her melodies. One after another, their gentle refrains blessed our ears, calming our youthful spirits. It was back-breaking work, but the reward, spending time with grandma, and then to be rewarded with a fresh plate of her fried potatoes, was well worth any toil.
He looked at his dirt-stained hands, the soil blackened beneath his nails; the sense of accomplishment and family; a feeling he would not soon release. The unnamed melodies forever planted within his soul; the bond of earth and song were inseparable. The two were in his blood forever part of who he was.
God had created man from the earth, breathing life into his nostrils, so that he could have life. “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.8 And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.”-Gen.2:7-8 After the sin, man was cursed to work the land, by sweat and toil; yet, again, it was who he was. “And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”-Gen.3:17-19
God had intended for us to work the land from that point forward, but not only the land, our humanity as well. His only Son provided us with the path to eternal life through our salvation, but only such that we had been entrusted with the planting of those seeds of faith. Without them, the future generations would be lost to sin, and eternal death. It is our conviction of purpose to plant those seeds. Although we as sowers may never reap the harvest, it is up to us to carry on the Word of God unto the world, for these were Christ’s own words, “18 And Jesus came and spoke unto them, saying, “All power is given unto Me in Heaven and on earth.19 Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,20 teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” Amen.”-Mat.28:18-20
As my fingertips glide across the keys, music connects me to another realm whereby God speaks through me in spite of me. The connection is undeniable. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”-Col.3:16
Like that feeling of dark soil slipping through our fingertips, its smell reaching our senses, reminding us of our irrefutable connection to the earth, and God’s love. “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” Seeds of faith, the far-reaching ability to touch our hearts through music, and the ground upon which we trod; we are never far from the graces of God.
Long ago, the seeds of faith were planted in my soul. Grandma gently watered them with beautiful melodies of faith, which to this day, bring grace to my heart. We may pass from this life to the next one day, but until we do, we too shall break the ground and plant the seeds for those to come; lest they fall to the wayside and darkness prevail.
Preserve those heirloom seeds, music, and faith, if not for yourself, do it for those you love.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
Let our affliction become our conviction in all that we do.
Thanks be to God.