I grew up with a family garden – most all of the folks in our community had a small plot of land where every summer there was an abundance of fresh squash, cucumbers, and of course tomatoes. I didn’t really think about what I was learning about life during those hot summer days of watering and weeding – but in looking back I see I learned a lot from those times.
I learned about patience. I learned that there was the perfect time to pick that tomato – that although it looked ripe, letting it ripen on the vine made for a much sweeter tomato.
I learned about perseverance. The long cycle of preparing the soil by plowing and making ready (how I hated breaking up clods of hard soil with a hoe!), the sowing, and watering, and almost constant weeding, and finally the harvesting – it reminded me of the Walter Elliot quote, “Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after the other.”
And I learned about allowing the soil to rest and lay fallow for a season. The farmers in our area called it crop rotation – but we simply knew it as a place where we didn’t have to weed. When I asked why we didn’t plant in all the garden, my grandmother told me this was needed for the soil to heal itself, to prepare itself for the next season. For the nutrients in the soil to refresh. So although it looked like there wasn’t anything going on, there was renewal happening in the ground.
I’m reminded of this ‘lying fallow’ in this Scripture – that our time of Sabbath is a time of renewal and refreshment of our soul. We are busy people and are often reluctant to spend time unprofitably. Taking and making Sabbath – a time of rest and renewal – a heart free from the guilt of ‘not doing’ – brings clarity and refreshment.
Gracious and extravagant God, we thank you for this day and all the blessings it brings. In the everyday and the ordinary, we find amazing things. We find extravagance in your creation. In this season of Lent may we find renewal and rest as we abide in You. Refresh our spirit and renew our souls. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
John Hall is the Conference Lay Leader for the North Carolina Conference