Before we left for Ethiopia, a friend tried to explain the economic hardship I’d find there, “The land is beautiful. It’s not like what you saw on the commercials as a kid. It’s lush and green. Poverty exists due to green famine.”
Green famine. Also called ‘suffering amongst the plenty.’ The land’s beauty is only surface. Beneath the lush top layer is ground that’s been been depleted of nutrients necessary for growth.
Beauty on the surface, depleted beneath—this has been life for the last few years. Everything has appeared fantastic. Each day held work rooted in passion and purpose. Health has stayed with us. Children have been kind and only fight before breakfast and after dinner. But beneath the surface, the energy required to sustain our pace of living was waning. The more I took on, the less I had available.
And so I brought about my own green famine.
Just this week, I completed a much anticipated project deadline. It was finished. Done. Over. After I pressed ‘send’ on the manuscript, I slipped out of my office, into my bedroom and ran a bath. A few minutes later I heard my husband knock. “Are you in there?”
“Yes, sir, I am.”
“I didn’t even hear you slip downstairs. I was going to tell you congratulations. What are you doing?”
“Taking a bath. And then I’m going to workout. And then I’m going to drink a cup of tea.”
Silence. “All that today?”
“Yeah. I’ve forgotten how to relax, so I’ve decided to make it my fulltime job.”
The most natural way to restore a depleted field back so that it can cultivate life is to fallow the field. Plow it up, turn all the plants and organic remains back into the soil, but leave the field unseeded—empty—at rest. Fallowing still requires intentionality—the farmer still has to wake up early. The farmer still spends hours preparing land as if it were to be planted. And the farmer still has to stare at the plowed land—knowing how easy it would be to plant seed there—and choose to say ‘no’ to a small harvest for the purpose of abundance.
There is work so that there is rest. And today’s rest will recompense future tomorrows.
And so I decided it was time to fallow the field of me. I recognize that I’m depleted and what little I could produce isn’t going to be enough for the world to consume. It’s time to prepare space for that rest. It’s time to get out of time-debt for the purpose of relational wealth.
In honor of the fallowing, I’ve committed to answering the following question when posed with a new project: When I imagine myself doing this thing, does it feel like a deep inhale and exhale, or can I barely catch my breath?
Answering this question isn’t an overnight event. So far, I’ve carried my list of potential projects around in my thoughts. If I was enjoying an evening with my family, I’d ask myself, “Would I be enjoying this if I took on Project A, B, or C?”
If I found that I wanted to volunteer for something but couldn’t, I’d ask, “If I choose to do Project A, will I miss out on this again?”
I’ve had conversations with people who love me and asked their opinion about my ability/inability to rest.
And then I prayed like mad that the Lord would teach me to be open-handed in my hopes and dreams—because it’s hard to let go of good opportunity.
Sometimes, our lives need fallowed. They need rest. After years of busy and productivity have taken their toll, a mark of Spirit-led maturity is being able to say, ‘no more, not now.’ When the ‘no more, not now’ has been spoken, we must then do the work of preparing ourselves for rest.
Like the farmer who fallows the field, choosing rest isn’t a passive event. It’s an invitation. Spirit, have your way here, in me. Renew me. Revive me. Refill me. Only then will the next season offer living matter worth consuming.
And as the Spirit has His way, you’ll find me walking the length of the fallowed field, following each plowed line of intentional rest. Remembering why it was I was given this field, anyhow. And dreaming about what I might plant next….