I was born on a farm and raised by farmers. I read about farming, think about farming, facilitate discussions about farming and work two hours a week on a farm. I am passionate about the merits of farm life, the joy of putting down roots and the value in staying in one spot and tending to one place in the world.
Yet, my fervor is shallow.
It is fueled by experiences I inherited from my parents’ and grandparents’ decisions, wisdom I gleaned from compelling authors and lessons learned by watching friends take risks and make sacrifices.
I, however, have not lived on a farm since I was four. Sure, I get my hands dirty, plant something each spring when the sun comes out of hibernation and the novelty of the season makes light of hard work.
But I rarely last to see those seeds to fruition. The sun gets hot and the air balmy. Summer vacations beckon and the garden is abandoned. Weeding is boring; watering plants, tiresome. So I will ignore the task at hand and read Wendell Berry on my front porch instead.
|"Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat |
falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone;
but if it dies, it bears much fruit." John 12:24
I wish this pattern were true only of my relationship with the land. But, alas, I am a dreamer and this is the dreamer’s vice—to romanticize that which has been and that which is to come. Nostalgia and vision are my constant companions, my omnipresent rose-colored glasses looking behind and ahead. In my mental world the cousin questions “Remember when?” and “What if?” drown out the quieter voice of “What now?”
“What now?” asks the humble voice of the present. The same whisper the prophet Elijah heard in the cave. The whisper that invites me into the only possible life, the current moment. To be faithful. To stay when the task is boring. To feel the depth of my grief and the pain of my neighbors. To know the peace of single mindedness.
Escaping to the past or the future proves detrimental to much more than agriculture. It inhibits the development of my very spirit.
If I fail to love the person in front of me, can I claim to be loving?
If I seek joy in distant memories or future possibilities, do I experience true joy?
If I believe peace will come when I’m married, promoted, in the woods, debt-free or any other condition, will I ever know peace?
But there is hope for the dreamer. A present hope. It is the opportunity to make space for the small, still voice asking “What now?” The voice urging me to live where life is happening in its hardship and boredom, as well as its growth and joys.
These words from “Rest Your Tattered Heart” say it as good as any:
The visions used to seem so much clearer, but they were shiny and unreal. Now they're forming out of mud, out of our bodies and blood, and they're gonna walk and talk and holler in the world. ~Dave Lefever
May this Lent be a time for you and I to make space, to be present. To pray, to fast, to give so that we may better hear the gentle voice that is ever calling us to know life as it is.