Lenae Bulthuis 2019

“How are you doing?” I asked a co-worker who is younger than my youngest. The question was simple and straightforward. Her response, not so much.

“I am doing just swimmingly!” she said.

On the surface, swimmingly sounds dreamy and good. But I’m not a swimmer. Nor in my twenties. So I asked her to translate for this Gen Xer.

“It means I am swimming along just fine and am not drowning, which is great!” she said.

I haven’t put swimming and great in the same sentence since I was about eight. I still remember losing my death grip on the corner edge of a local pool when a swim instructor stepped on my head to force me underwater. While living in the land of 10,000 lakes may be swimmingly for many, there’s more going on under the surface for me. Things like the burn of water up my nose and thoughts of wanting to throw in the beach towel and head home.

Everyone always has more under the surface than what we can see.

“Did you feel that?” Mike asked as he turned the combine at the end of the cornfield.

Buddy seats don’t hide much. I also felt the extra bumps.

“Those are the sprayer tracks from this spring when it was so wet,” he said. Though the bushels above this patch of prairie were bountiful, we could still feel the story below the surface. It was wet when he planted, wet when he sprayed, and now Mike was harvesting on frozen ground.

For better or worse, there’s always something going on more in-depth than we can see. What takes place below the surface impacts what we see on the ground. At all times, there is a story behind the story.

As I pen this column, our nation has just experienced at least its 11th school shooting in 2019. Attacks are bigger than tracing, where weapons were registered and obtained. It’s digging under the surface to understand why a child would be motivated to bring a gun to school with the intent to kill.

Each new day holds new mercies and new headlines of violence and injustice. What a difference it would make if we could get to the root of all that is harmful, hate-filled and horrific before it bears fruit in our homes, schools and world.

In 1794, Captain James Saumarez was outgunned and he knew it. Phil Moore writes, “The French invasion fleet that was circling the British island of Guernsey carried over twice as many cannons as the few ships that Saumarez commanded to defend it.”

But Saumarez had a distinct advantage over the enemy. He knew what was under the surface. He was as familiar with the underwater rocks around the island as Minnesota farmers are with the stones in their fields. So he fired on the French fleet and withdrew to the rocky waters that he could navigate, with the confidence that his enemy would be too fearful of following.

Victories are obtained above the waves and at ground level when we understand what’s taking place under the surface. Healing can begin when we stop digging in our heels with new initiatives, programs and products, and instead start digging to the root of the problem.

What is the root? “Love is at the root of everything — all learning, all relationships, love, or the lack of it,” said beloved Mr. Rogers.

Farmers understand roots. To eradicate weeds, you need to get to the root. For an abundant harvest, you need a robust root system. Whether someone is bouncing on the ends of a cornfield or in the middle of life, Fred Rogers points us to the best response: The greatest thing that we can do is to help somebody know that they are loved and capable of loving.

Beneath the surface, no matter who you are or where you are in your story, we share the same insatiable desire. We desire love. And whether you feel swimmingly or are water-up-your-nose drowning, the truth that won’t make the headlines is that you are loved — loved by God and loved by those anchored to Him. Nothing beneath the surface or at ground level can ever change that!

Lenae Bulthuis muses about faith, family, and farming from her back porch on her Minnesota grain and livestock farm. Her blog can be found online at www.lenaebulthuis.com and she can be reached via email at lenaesbulthuis@gmail.com.