Between the Rains

 April 2, 2011

For the first time ever I was able to reach into the soil at Healing Springs Acres. I had felt the surface of the soil, walked over dozens of acres of it, sat on it, driven over it, and stretched out to nap on it. I had watched my daughters tromp across the fields and through the woods in muddy rubber boots laughing in a place they thought would bore them. I’d done all of that but, I had never buried a hand inside the ground and felt the damp, cool grit from more than a foot deep packing itself under my fingernails until today.

As I finished the first draft of the first post for this blog early last week my phone rattled my leg, a signal I’ve come to associate more with good news than bad. The text message was empty except for a small reddish picture. Temporarily without transportation and unable to get down to the farm, about 30 miles south of where I currently live, I was completely dependent upon a neighbor to do the needed plowing after mowing the week before. There was only a window of about two days when the ground would be dry enough from last weekend’s rain to plow it before the rains came again for most of the rest of that week – and, the neighbor had plenty of his own work to do.

Though typing confident words about the farm’s incarnation of Jesus’ invitation to serve others, I was actually sinking into the worry that the rain would be perfectly timed to delay the plowing. I worried that the delay in the initial plowing would leave too little time for other work to be done in time to be ready for our mid to late May planting season. I worried that this year’s planting would be fatally thwarted for the year just about the same time I posted to the world a public notice of the decision to go ahead rather than wait a year. Sometimes I worry. Then, I got the welcome text. As the picture focused on the screen and comprehension dawned that I was seeing a plowed field, dust still hanging in the air visibly in the tiny square picture, I laughed out loud at the absurdity of my need to be in control. It could not have been timed any better. Thank you Percy.

When I served as president of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship Foundation I sometimes enjoyed the illusion of control. I could order a wire transfer of funds, or the purchase or sale of investments and assume with relative assurance that it would happen within a predictable, sometimes precise, time frame. I could visit a predictable number of prospective clients a predictable number of times and expect a predictable number of them to become actual clients. Working between the rains isn’t like that. It’s like – well, it’s like walking in a plowed field.

Each syncopated stride in a clumpy plowed field is about as sure as the shifting fun house steps at the fair. The open ground gives and bends in its own rhythm even when it is relatively stable. Add in the sometimes camouflaged patches of ankle deep mud from the last rain and it can be a downright precarious act. I have walked in plowed fields before but I realized with each step, like regaining one’s sea legs after far too long ashore, how little of it I’ve ever really done and how little residue of the physical memory remains.

Given the option, I prefer to be in control. Left to my own introverted devices, I would rather do things for myself, by myself, rather than risk being let down by others. However, that’s not an option at Healing Springs Acres. I am nearly completely dependent on others for equipment, advice, resources, and labor. Of course, often what we see when we look at others, like the risk of being let down, is really what we see in ourselves whether we can articulate it as such or not. Oh, and when I say I’d rather not depend on others, of course, what I’m really saying is that I’d rather not depend on God. It is the original sin in another garden. I’d rather know enough, and be in control enough, not to be dependent on anything or any one. It is pure hubris and it doesn’t work.

When I speak of depending on God, I’m not saying that I expect any special divine meteorological treatment. I know full well that the rains fall on the wicked and the righteous all the same – so, I believe it’s probably also true for those of us on our way somewhere in between. What I am saying though is that the field got plowed and, that it clearly happened beyond my direct means to do it myself. As of yet, I have not known ahead of time from whence anything I’ve needed to make Healing Springs Acres happen would come. Yet, at every turn so far, what has been needed has been provided. Though I’m still not altogether sure about myself, I have decided to depend on God to leave enough space between the rains for the work to be done for something nourishing to grow.