A Musing on Peanuts 2-1-2023
This month I am trying to be intentional with my Midweek Musings by pointing out Black Americans and how their faith in God and reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit gave them strength. This power helped them persevere in the face of difficulties and demonstrate the Kingdom of God even in the harsh reality in which many of them lived.
Now some of these lives of faith stories are very well known and often recounted. For example, lives guided by faith are obviously seen in the life and work of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., US Ambassador and Diplomat Rev. Andrew Young, US House Representative John Lewis, and Rosa Parks. These well-known individuals are certainly worthy of celebration and their stories have much to share.
However, many others led lives guided by a deep but quiet faith which helped support them in their work. These folks and their stories are especially interesting to me because we often miss how those who are more modest in sharing how their faith guides them. When we look we can discover the power of their faithful work which by leaning on God profoundly impacted the world. Additionally, I find it interesting how the ripple effect takes place through God's providence, and work that might have been considered insignificant is actually by the blessings of God, world-changing.
Lives like these also remind me of Peter's first letter written to Christians dispersed across the world where he encourages the reader to, "Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining. Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen."
Such a life I believe can be seen in the life and work of George Washington Carver. Before I ran into an article online that led me to learn even more about him, I probably could have told you that George Washington Carver was a scientist and instructor at Tuskegee College. I would have known he worked in the study of agriculture and had made contributions to the world though I couldn't have told you what they were. Oh – and I think he was on a postage stamp
What I discovered, however, was fascinating and inspiring and certainly pointed to a life guided by his Christian faith.
George Washington Carver was an American agricultural scientist and inventor. Born into slavery, he became one of the most prominent African Americans of his time. After the Civil War, he attended college and earned a degree in agriculture. Carver worked as a professor and researcher at the Tuskegee Institute, where he taught farmers innovative methods for improving soil fertility and increasing crop yields. He also developed hundreds of new uses for crops such as peanuts, sweet potatoes, and soybeans, which helped improve the economy of the South.
In reading this the word peanuts caught my attention. The man worked with peanuts! That sounds like a pretty lousy thing to get stuck working on. Additionally, having seen the salaries of African Americans at that time it seems he also worked for peanuts.
Here was a man of intellectual genius stuck in the Jim Crow era Deep South.
There were rumors that I read that Carver was offered several opportunities to go to more prominent positions but chose to follow what he believed was his calling. Carver indeed saw his work in agriculture as a way to serve others and glorify God. In his own words, Carver said, "I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in." This deep faith in God and belief in serving others was a guiding principle for Carver and helped shape his life and work.
So discovering he felt this was a call I wondered what did he do with peanuts.
Carver is credited with developing over 300 uses for the peanut, including products such as peanut butter, peanut oil, and various dyes.
Enjoy a Reece's Cup -thank GW Carver. Enjoy a PB& J. Yes that GWC. How about a Chick Fila Sandwich which is cooked in peanut oil? Yep – those too.
In fact, Carver's work transformed the peanut from a largely overlooked crop into a major agricultural product, helping to revitalize the economy of the southern United States in the early 20th century.
Jimmy Carter's family took hold of these discoveries and started Peanut Farm whose profits helped support a young Carter in school and political ambitions and eventually led him to the White House. (See the ripple effect)
And because Carter became President, Andrew Young became the UN Ambassador and the ripples continue.
Carver was also a pioneer in promoting environmental conservation and sustainable agriculture, and scientists today are looking back on his work as we try to move away from harmful chemicals in pesticides and fertilizers.
Because of this work, Carver did receive numerous honors and awards for his work both during his life and after his death.
So you might be wondering what this biography has to do with faith.
Well here is something else I uncovered that most history books leave out.
You see George Washington Carver was deeply religious and attributed his success to his faith in God. Carver was raised in a deeply religious household and was a devout Christian throughout his life. He believed that his scientific pursuits were a means to serve God and improve the lives of others.
It was known that Carver would often spend hours in prayer and meditation before beginning his work in the laboratory. He believed that this helped him to receive inspiration from God and to better understand the mysteries of nature.
Once he shared that there was a time when he was struggling to find a solution to a difficult problem in his work. He went to his chapel, where he prayed and meditated for hours. When he returned to his laboratory, he suddenly had a breakthrough and discovered the solution to the problem. He was adamant that the inspiration came to him from God and because of spending time in prayer.
Carver's faith was key to who he was because it reminded him to whom he belonged in both life and death.
From George Washington Carver's example, may we remember that when we rely on the promises of God to be with us even if we are only given peanuts, it is possible to change the world and you never know how those ripples may grow to create a tidal wave of difference for generations to come.