I remember as a little girl trying to wrap my mind around the concept of letting a field go fallow — the practice of letting a field rest for a season or more so that its fertility — its ability to be productive — could be restored.
The idea that we would let a field — a piece of dirt — “rest” seemed weird to me. I mean, why wouldn’t a farmer want to keep planting that field every opportunity he had so that he could reap the highest yield?
It’s a concept I have a hard time applying to farming and to my own life. I struggle to give myself a break from productivity — just imagine what I could be accomplishing in the time that I might be resting!
For the past three months or so I’ve allowed this blog to sit fallow. I taught three classes this past semester — three different classes which means three different preparations. It took a lot of my mental energy and my time to process and package all the content that my students consumed (or didn’t consume as the case may be). I thought about my blog from time to time, but I reasoned, this just isn’t the time. You’ll get back to it. I wouldn’t say it was an intentional choice to let my blog go fallow, but I am reaping the benefits just the same. Over the past week or so while I was finalizing grades, finishing my Christmas shopping, and tying up other loose ends, I kept thinking, pretty soon, pretty soon you are going to be able to blog!
In my excitement to begin my personal writing again, I’ve been considering some unusual ideas for what to write about and how to write about it. Maybe I could change the blog’s layout. Maybe I’d like to play around with a series — a participatory series in which I use another platform to allow readers to dabble with my topics and try their own hands at blogging. Where were these ideas coming from? Why hadn’t I considered them before? Perhaps taking a break from production had allowed my mind a chance to restore.
The practice of letting fields go fallow is not too different from giving ourselves a rest through the practice of sabbath. Sabbath, by design, is a scheduled break from our labor. A pause in productivity. An opportunity for our lives to have a chance at restoration.
[I’m not very good at observing a sabbath.]
Historically, sabbath has been observed one day a week — maybe Saturday, maybe Sunday. Perhaps it originates from creation wherein God rested on the sabbath day. It is echoed in the story of the Israelites who gathered manna six days a week, but not on the seventh. The Ten Commandments also mention the sabbath with the admonition to “Remember the sabbath day to keep it holy.” It’s a model and a mandate intended for our benefit. It’s a reminder, “Guys, take a break. Remember that it’s God who created you, who provides for your needs, and who will sustain you. Sit down. Take a break. Let your body have a chance for restoration.”
And here I am folding a load of laundry, running to get my groceries, wrapping my Christmas presents, and even disinfecting the bathroom floor. Why wouldn’t I want to keep busy so that I can reap the highest yield?
I’m missing the point.
On Sunday afternoon, after a morning of (gosh, I hate to admit this) grocery shopping and worship, I came home and entered my students’ final grades into the online portal. Then, I crocheted while I got caught up on old episodes of Call the Midwife. That’s my idea of a sabbath, guys. I’m often willing to give myself a pause, but a whole day? Come on.
And two weeks ago, when my husband and I were discussing the fact that I did not have a teaching contract for this semester, we agreed that perhaps I should keep my semester open so that I can catch my breath and allow some space for restoration. I posted my grades on Sunday, and today — Tuesday — I went on an interview. Sigh.
I am telling you: I push back against this concept of letting myself “go fallow” — of letting myself practice the sabbath. Why? Perhaps I’m afraid. Perhaps I don’t fully trust that God created me, sustains me, and will provide for every eventuality. Perhaps I think of myself more highly than I ought — that I’m the only one who can meet that student’s need or answer that email or edit that paper. Or perhaps I don’t want to be confronted with the thoughts and feelings that might surface if I take some time to be still.
Perhaps all of those possibilities are true.
Over the years, I have found one way to embrace the stillness — writing. So, after this season of letting my blog go fallow, I am re-engaging. I am going to turn over some soil, plant some seeds, and see what grows. I might explore some of my fears and some of my feelings. I might also invite you to have some fun.
3 For six years sow your fields, and for six years prune your vineyards and gather their crops. 4 But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the Lord. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards.