Is It Finished Yet
How high's the water, mama? Five feet high and risin'
Maybe we are at a two – not quite over the hump. Maybe it’s a three. The crazy thing is I’m not sure how high this scale goes! Our current situation reminds me of a Johnny Cash song. Right now the flood waters keep rising. We’ve put out the sandbags.
But who knows when it will quit raining?
If we persevere, our happy ending will come just like the ending of the story behind the song, “Five Feet High and Rising.”
The Man in Black was born during the Great Depression. When he was three his family moved to Dyess, Arkansas to farm on Colony land. This was part of Roosevelt’s New Deal plan to help move the United States out of the Great Depression. It was established to give poor families the opportunity to work land that they may later own. 1
And work it was as Johnny’s father and his brother worked from dawn to dark, six days a week clearing the land. Most of the land was swamp overrun with thick vegetation. By the time the first crop season rolled around, they had only managed to clear three acres out of the twenty.
Apparently, there were accusations of political corruption when it came to the acquisition of this unsuitable farming land from a local county commissioner. Things don’t seem much different today. Do they?
Some families packed their bags and moved on.
But the Cash family persevered.
A short two years after the move, the families of Dyess got dealt another blow. The Mississippi River flooded in 1937 forcing them to leave town until the water receded. They weren’t sure what they would return to.
Just like we aren’t sure what will be left for us?!?!
Who would have guessed that a flood, which usually only brings destruction would wash a load of rich black bottom dirt across the land?
“My mama always taught me that good things come from adversity if we put our faith in the Lord,” he said, explaining the genesis of the song, “We couldn’t see much good in the flood waters when they were causing us to leave home. But when the water went down, we found that it had washed a load of rich black bottom dirt across our land. The following year we had the best crop we’d ever had.” Thanks to the rich new layer of soil, his father was able to repay the government back and acquired the deed. 2
Not only did the flood leave fertile soil for good crops, the struggles growing up led to some of the best Johnny Cash songs.
Several years ago, I was met with a torrential downpour of rain -- much like a flood meant to wash me away.
On the other side of the receding waters, I met a complete stranger that told me about a childhood of severe abuse. She wasn’t a believer at the time and honestly I don’t blame her. Where was God after all? Where was He when she was just a little girl being abused?
With years of resentment built up, it would take a massive flood to tear down her walls.
God is good at floods though, isn’t He?
I told her about a hard time in my life. She asked me “what did you do?”
“Did it get better?” she inquired.
“No, actually it got worse.”
“Then what did you do?” she asked.
“And all was right again I’m guessing?” she retorted.
“Nope. It got worse,” I explained. “But I kept at it. He kept pruning. Eventually it got better, little by little. Until He washed away all of the barren layers of dirt and my vine started to flower again.”
You may be asking where is God in all of this? Rightfully so.
Although we can't comprehend His plan we are going to take a lesson from the faithful Mrs. Cash and look for the good things that grow from adversity.
We will pray.
We will persevere.
Even if it gets worse.
Especially if it gets worse.
Then one morning we will wake up and step outside into this fertile black dirt all squished between our toes.
And we’ll look up to the heavens and praise our Almighty God for blessing us with a little more rain. 3
1 “Johnny Cash.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 21 Apr. 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnny_Cash.
2 Hilburn, Robert. Johnny Cash: the Life. Hachette Book Group, 2014.
3 Johnny R Cash. Lyrics to “Five Feet High and Rising.” Columbia Records, 1974.
How high's the water, mama? Two feet high and risin' How high's the water, papa? She said it's two feet high and risin'
We can make it to the road in a homemade boat That's the only thing we got left that'll float It's already over all the wheat and oats, Two feet high and risin'
How high's the water, mama? Three feet high and risin' How high's the water, papa? She said it's three feet high and risin'
Well, the hives are gone, I lost my bees The chickens are sleepin' In the willow trees Cow's in water up past her knees, Three feet high and risin'
How high's the water, mama? Four feet high and risin' How high's the water, papa? She said it's four feet high and risin'
Hey, come look through the window pane, The bus is coin', gonna take us to the train Looks like we'll be blessed with a little more rain, Four feet high and risin'
How high's the water, mama? Five feet high and risin' How high's the water, papa? She said it's five feet high and risin'
Well the rails are washed out north of town We gotta head for higher ground We can't come back till the water goes down, Five feet high and risin'
Well, it's five feet high and risin'
Songwriters: Johnny R. Cash