Living on the Earth We Have

The first two years of marriage, for us, were a whirlwind. Dating was six weeks, engagement another six, moving, moving again, moving again, setting, sort of, into a place we knew we wouldn't stay but what else could we do? We planted a little container garden on the patio of our rental and salvaged the tomatoes the skinny city deer missed and the chile peppers they knew better than to eat. And with the same gusto we had dreamed of staying in Denver we dreamed of leaving DC.

The creeping realization that city life was not for us didn't prevent us from returning to the Dallas area, but the comfort of returning to our church family was all the pull we needed and in two weeks we will have lived in our home for a year. This is the first March in three years I'm not thinking through moving preparations. I pinch myself at the coming wonder of living within the same walls for twelve whole months plus one. And so we have been learning to dream. I would like to say again, but there is no room for dreaming in a world of survival. We have survived three years together and now we begin to dream. 

For months that dream has been routing us toward the hope of someday living on a plot of land, not to own it or to be owned by it, as Wendell Berry says, but to be stewards of it. We know the dream will take years to unfold and we are patient for it. Whiplash will teach you patience is a good friend. But the dream—sometimes—is just good enough. 

Sabbaths are for dreaming, we often say to one another. Mondays and Tuesdays and Thursdays are for doing, for faithfulness, for being instead of going. But on Sabbath we dream. No limitations and no realism. We feed our dreams on Sabbath because God knit those dreams as surely as he knit us—even if they will never be realized. One week we are farmers and another we are church planters and another we are city-dwellers. One week I found an old retreat center for sale in the Adirondacks and we dreamed for a moment of stewarding it and what we might do with all that beauty. If our friends are sharing our space on Sabbath we tell them they can dream too and we'll water it, tend it, see where it might go for a day. We who were perishing for want of a vision, come alive within it. 

On Saturday morning, we measured our back yard space, mostly concrete with slivers of earth on the margins and a lima bean pool in the middle. Then we spent the day weeding and tilling the margins and building 18" cedar wood raised beds. Our muscles ached and my skin was radish red by evening. The beds are still empty, awaiting dirt this evening, plants in a week or so, and roots in a few more weeks. But we stood back and admired our work, remarked to one another how much we enjoy hard work, and have felt the strange inklings of rootedness begin to take. 

"The act of putting these here and the planting to come," he says, "makes me feel more rooted here, regardless of what God does with our future. We're trying to be faithful, to establish wholeness from this concrete yard in Flower Mound, Texas. We're trying to take part in its redemption now." It reminds me of what the poet Gary Snyder said, "Find your place on the planet. Dig in, and take responsibility from there.” 

One of the most insidious lies to ever enter the Christian faith is that what we do on earth has no place in the new earth. That "It's all gonna burn," as a friend once joked while we walked the coast of Maine on a brisk November day.

All creation is groaning and we are too, that's more the truth, and these groanings are too strong to ignore. The groaning leads some to the city and some to the country, some to shepherding and some to sheep-herding, some to gardening and some to cooking, and sometimes it leads us to do the best we can with what we have today. And then to dream on Sundays of the earth to come. 

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