Saturday, June 30, 2012

The (Not So) Patient Farmer

I guess I'm not a real farmer. No. I'm sure of it. Actually this is my first crack at any kind of gardening. I made a 25X4 ft raised bed a few days ago. I'm looking at it right now (a little pridefully)from my dining room window. The reasons I know I'm not a real farmer are legion. There's the obvious - little knowledge, almost no experience, few tools. But mainly, I don't have the farmer's patience. While working on this small project, a few hours worth of work really, I was counting down the minutes to being finished almost as soon as I began. But something happened in the midst of the hoeing, shoveling, weeding. A shift took place... I got lost in my work. I went from toiling to playing in the dirt. It became meditative, even restful. It's funny that it took me so long, because my kids understood this immediately. The older boys were yelling "Can I help! Can I help! Can I help! Even L.M., our 1-yr-old, was grabbing clumps of grass and putting them in the weed pile. You couldn't tear them away. What was it Jesus said, something about the Kingdom belonging to ones such as these? Something about how a child will lead them? I was reading a book by Eugene Peterson this last year called Under the Unpredictable Plant. In it he talks about one of his mentors, Wendell Berry, a farmer-poet-mystic. Peterson says that he has learned more about ministry from reading Wendell Berry than anyone else. He says that anytime Berry writes "Farm," he just substitutes the word Parish and it works every time. I recently came across this modest paragraph from Berry that I think exemplifies Peterson's method:
"During the last 17 years . . . I have been working at the restoration of a once exhausted hillside. Its scars are now healed over, though still visible, and this year it has provided abundant pasture, more than in any year since we have owned it. But to make it as good as it is now has taken 17 years. If I had been a millionaire or if my family had been starving, it would still have taken 17 years. It can be better than it is now, but that will take longer. For it to live fully in its own responsibility, as it did before bad use ran it down, may take hundreds of years."
Things take time. People take time. I take time. When I become fixated on efficiency and results, I miss so much. And in an ironic twist, I get less accomplished. But when I let myself sink into Deep Time, I value process over product, people over projects, participation over perfection. That's the thing about farming (or parenting or pastoring), the thing I'm learning - it takes a kind of waiting that is more like being (with) than anything else. Friends (Quakers) have practiced a kind of waiting that tends to enrich some and infuriate others. This waiting insists on taking time. It admits that there is a kind of knowing that takes time to grow in our hearts and in our community. It admits that there is a kind of waiting that trusts that God is doing something in us even when we can't see or feel the results right away. Even when we feel desperately confused or desperately divided. A kind of waiting that is more like being (with God) than anything else. Sometimes we call it group discernment. Sometimes we call it open worship. We might even call it a business meeting. But it's made of the same kind of stuff. A deep listening. A deep trust. Deep Time.
7 Be patient, therefore, beloved, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious crop from the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. (James 5:7)
Try more related Blog Post from Brad :) Everything's Amazing and Nobody's Happy Everyone is Just Waiting

1 comment:

  1. It took most of my 65+ years to realize that you have to be patient. In fact, I'm still learning. Nice writing.

    One question though. Near the end of the first paragraph you mention Eugene Peterson substitutes "perish" for "farm". Should that be "parish"?