Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Good Earth

We tilled the garden last night.

Funny, how things like gardening show me more about my own heart than prayer and meditation sometimes do.

This particular garden is a dream. It's nothing but rich brown silt, deposited along the Ohio River many moons ago. Over the past two centuries my garden plot, along with thousands of acres surrounding my land, was home to a very productive vineyard. A variety of obscure grapes were grown here by a Danish immigrant and his family --strangers in a strange land, who came to this country and tamed some wild grapes, built a vineyard, established a school and put their lives on the line to free some slaves.

The winery, school and vineyard are long gone and the acreage surrounding us has been subdivided until the original farm is only a memory recorded in an old journal. In spite of the changes that have taken place, though, there are reminders of the original investment in this land. We still have an arbor that is weighed down by centuries old vines, and most of our neighbors have random grape vines in their yards as well. The foundation stones that were once supporting the one room school are evident just up the road, and the winery itself sits in disrepair in my backyard, each huge, hand-hewn stone a monument testifying to the fact that someone has gone before--worked the land, tamed what was wild and made a life and we are not the originals.

The home I lived in prior to this one was brand new. It was the first of several in a brand new subdivision, replete with homeowners' associations, covenants, restrictions and a complete lack of community within the planned community. My garden there was a nightmare. Pure red mud, packed so tightly that I couldn't till the ground on my own, and even after several years of feeding that soil, mulching in compost and humus and lots of sweat equity, I could barely grow an onion. The fruits of my labors in that garden were as withered and tired as my lack of relationships in that uncommunity.

As I was tilling my dream dirt last night, I thought long and hard about my life and the crossroads at which I find myself where true community, worship and fellowship are concerned. I was contemplating the things that God is stirring in my heart and mind, even though they seem to be radical, different, defying the norm that I see all around me. It was as if there was a shadow of what had gone before hidden somewhere in the "new things" that God is doing in my life---a true sense that these ideas are not original. I continued thinking about my own heart as I cut through the soil and removed weeds, loosening ground so that the seeds that I plant can be deeply rooted and well watered. I want the soil of my heart to be like this garden--rich, loose, open to good seed, quick to dislodge weeds, bearing fruit that is pure and sweet and abundant enough to share.

My heart has had seasons where it was more like the red mud garden in the planned community--dry, hard, unyielding, surrounded by "forced community" that was as dry and lifeless as that same mud.

I don't want to go back.

I don't want to forget that there are seeds of the Father hibernating there, shadows of what He hopes for me waiting to grow wild, like those grapes that crop up all around our neighborhood. I want to allow Him to till and weed and tend my heart so that it yields good fruit, even when it feels countercultural. I want to be free of the false restrictions I've allowed to become law to me through religion---like so many subdivision covenants and homeowners' associations--and live in the freedom of grace and truth.

I want to follow the ancient path.

Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it.
Then you will find rest for your souls. Jeremiah 6:16

Sow righteousness, reap love
It's time to till the ready earth, it's time to dig in with God! Hosea 10:13 MSG