I am half Marlboro man, half Monk. That may seem like a paradox, a mixture of oil and water. But I’ve come to know both these guys pretty well over the years. Mostly, Marlboro and Monk get along inside me without much scuffle, though sometimes they question each other’s validity. Here’s a story about these two characters.
Marlboro man was shaped in the crucible of the farm/ranch. The tractor and the saddle toughened him. Baling-twine blisters, dirt, sweat, blood and manure are his badges of glory. He sets the plow deep to rip open the soil and violently turns it upside down. He loves the power he harnesses from the tractor and takes pride in accomplishment. He does his best first, then trusts God for what he can’t control.
Monk man smooths the soil and tends to the plants. He loves the feel of dirt and knows there’s life and power in a seed. He trusts God first, then does his best.
Marlboro man fusses and frets over every calving event and uses chains and a jack to assist if necessary. Marlboro man and Monk man team up to rescue a newborn calf struggling for survival after a downhill slide from the birth canal into the creek. They carry the shivering, muddy, slimy calf to a safe straw-strewn shelter and watch in amazement as the mother-cow instincts kick in gear to lick and warm and feed this dependent critter. They’re amazed every time a newborn calf finds his legs and searches for a nozzle. They laugh every time at the hilarity of it, and are astonished because it always seems to work.
Marlboro man sways in the saddle while Monk man sings “I love to tell the story of unseen things above” just like his dad used to. Marlboro man is a loner. Monk man likes solitude. Marlboro man hates rules and needs wide-open spaces with few boundaries. Monk man hates legalism but finds comfort within structure. Marlboro man is a man of the world with his feet on the ground. Monk man feels set apart to something bigger and beyond what he sees today.
On a tractor or in a saddle, there’s plenty of time to pass. Marlboro man is a thinker and a planner. But, Monk man is a dreamer. In fact, he’s been known to look at a cloud from below, and then take a journey to the backside of the cloud to see what it might look like. Once he even traveled to the farthest star he could see just to look up in the sky and see what the rest of the stars looked like from there.
Marlboro man will work for weeks to fill a barn with hay. Then he joins Monk man, both with their chin held in their hands staring in wonder at the newborn batch of kittens taking refuge in the haystack.
Marlboro man wakes up at 1:30 AM to start the morning milking shift. Monk man rouses a few minutes later and joins the sparrows in the parlor singing praises. A pretty decent choir, actually. He comes to understand the meaning of “give us this day our daily bread,” as he sees the sparrows descend from the rafters to feast on spilled barley.
It hasn’t always been easy for Marlboro and Monk to live with each other, but they’ve learned to get along by appreciating each other’s differences and strengths, even covering for each other’s weaknesses.
I read a quote by a Celtic Monk from the 12th century:
I can hear Marlboro man speaking as he says “Get in your boat, cast off and seek Christ.”
Then I hear Monk man chime in, “But don’t expect to find Him if He doesn’t accompany you on the way.”