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.

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11 responses to this post.

  1. Love your blog! I was so thrilled to see you’ve started a blog for those of us to be a part of the “distant community” of Healing Springs. It makes me dream about visiting one day and getting my hands into the soil! I love what you said about the “illusion of control” and about wanting to be in control. I can’t wait to continue to read about the work of this community together on that land and as you all extend outward.

    Reply

    • Thanks LeAnn. You and yours are always welcome! I’m sure my girls would LOVE to watch P. for a little while so you can get your hands dirty.

      Reply

  2. Don, I am glad to be one of your blog followers. It thrills me to see how this has gone from concept to the turning of the earth for planting. My medical journey pushed me to see how little control I had and found there is freedom in letting God be God and having control. I look forward to the future blogs and finding a way to connect on a congregational and personal level. I am thankful for you and your faithfulness to respond to God’s call to this venture.

    Reply

  3. Posted by Jacob Burgess on April 5, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    Great Job Don. I loved it!

    Reply

  4. Posted by Christy Chandler on April 5, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    Hey Don! Vickie passed your link on to me – Looks like some exciting new work! What are the plans for the farm?

    Reply

    • Christy, I’m glad you found your way here — and yes, I’m pretty excited about it all! I hope all is well in your world.

      The plan is simple. We’re growing food to give away to area ministries and organizations which feed people. We’re starting small and we’ll plant a little more each year going forward. Since the progress of the plans for the farm is pretty much the subject of the blog, I’ll just invite you to subscribe and visit from time to time as the story unfolds.

      Over the next couple of weeks you’ll see a history page added with two or three posts filling in the back story a bit. After that, I anticipate one to three posts per month. Maybe more around harvest times, or as other significant developments occur.

      After all, what I’m really starting is a farm to grow generosity and give away food — not a blog to grow opinions and give away words and ideas. God knows there are enough of those already…

      Thanks for asking! I hope you’ll stick around.

      (OK, I have to ask — Seen any good concerts lately!?)

      Reply

      • Posted by Christy on April 6, 2011 at 5:58 pm

        I look forward to seeing how the work unfolds! We’ve been cooped up in Tampa going on 5 years now and try to make our own little farm from our front flower beds!

        Sadly, not enough good concerts. The last one was Bon Iver about a year ago and before that Radiohead when they were in Tampa. So like the mini-farm, we make do by opening the windows and playing the ipod nice and loud while we hang out on the back patio! I had to smile when I read your quote of the PJ lyrics.

        We try to get up to NC about once a year, so hopefully next time we do, we can swing that way and see how the work has grown.

  5. Posted by Reid Doster on April 5, 2011 at 11:16 pm

    Don,

    I really loved this line from your March blog: “honestly, I’ve mostly stumbled with blind determination into more Providence than I even believe in.”

    Lately, it seems things have been getting worse faster than I can lower my expectations, so your perspective is a huge breath of fresh air.

    Lead on, O kinky turtle!

    Reid Doster
    Covington, Louisiana

    Reply

  6. Just the juxtaposition of soil preparation with texting is a sign of the New South, brother.

    When you solve the riddle of needing to control everything, please post a “how to.”

    Here’s to a bumper crop!

    Reply

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