Farming communities breath and move differently than their counterparts- suburbs or urban settings. They have a special life to them. Some of the wisest humans I know live in farming communities. These simple lifestyles are where agriculture becomes a way to understand the world, God, relationships, and the deep truths of life. If you go into the town of Monticello, Florida, you will meet several folks who own farms, plantations, or who will at least have several acres of gardens that they tend. Agriculture, creation really, is God’s classroom. All of creation reveals who He is, and therefore, unbelievers are without excuse. The depths to which God goes to reveal Himself is baffling at times. His sense of humor is seen in the tiniest of creatures, or my personal favorite, the hanging neck flaps of cows… All of creation is by in large a tangible canvas to God’s creativity, order, and beauty. I am not surprised, then, that He used this concept of agriculture to once again reveal so much more about my heart and my relationship with Him.
The metaphorical garden of my life has shifted recently. For 6 years I was planting sunflowers. I tended to these sunflowers day and night. I pruned them when they became sickly, kept the beetles away when they wanted to devour their precious blooms, and intentionally made sure honeybees had an open invitation to come and pollinate the fields. Mine was a small field. An acre or two at the most, but it was the field that I loved. What I love most about sunflowers is their innate ability to find the sun. To lean into its warmth and goodness to produce sugars to feed their stalks and leaves. But, if you know anything about planting, you know that if you continue to plant the same crops in the same soil season after season, the land becomes “tired” and less fertile. This is because the plants will drain the land of the nutrients needed to feed that plant’s growth. Also, certain pests can make their home in the fields by learning how to overcome the difficulties of certain crops. Finally, if there is not crop rotation, erosion will force its way through the land and cause literal gorges (google the “Little Grand Canyon” in Georgia… you’ll see what I mean). Because as I believer I should always be planting and watering (evangelism and discipleship), there is a temptation to continue planting sunflowers. Sunflowers worked for me. They brought me incredible joy. Everything is beautiful in its season…
However, the continual planting and watering of sunflowers has begun to erode the soil of my land. Pests have begun to overtake the area, and it is becoming increasingly more difficult to yield healthy sunflowers that have bloomed to their fullest potential. I can prolong my love for sunflowers by cutting some down and placing them in my favorite blue Mason jar, but there they only last another week or so. Necessary endings have always been difficult for me. It is time for me to put nutrients back into the soil. It is time to do the hard work of tilling the land, and refreshing its delicate pH balance. I can no longer plant sunflowers in my garden. The seeds God has placed in my hand are now cotton seeds. Cotton will be my new crop to plant and water, all while God promises to be the One to bring it to growth and harvest. I have a few months before cotton planting season starts… in the meantime I’ll work on making sure the soil is ready and healthy. By God’s grace, He has allowed me to continue to plant and water… even when I wanted the sunflowers more than anything else. His grace will till up the soil, His truth will replenish what has been lost or ruined, and time, while it lies fallow (free from any cultivated crop) will produce flourishing cotton that will be used to further the Gospel for His glory. Sinful gardening practices have ravaged my land, and crop rotation was not practiced. But, God speaks to that in His Word:
“Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.” (Hosea 10:12)
“For thus says the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem: ‘Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns’.” (Jeremiah 4:3)
Both of these Scriptures God is telling someone like me what to do to return to the field and work for His glory… not mine. How gracious He is to allow us to return.
Now. I’m ready to get my hands dirty.