Friday, July 29, 2016

Thorny as a thistle and ravenous as a rabbit

How country living makes me want God more

I used to dismiss the ideas I'd heard about how a rural life would bring us closer to God. It sounded like either a stuck-in-the-good-old-days bias, or hippie nonsense. After all, God assigns many people (currently, for the first time, the world's majority) to live in cities, and so it must be possible to live just as godly in an urban lifestyle as a rural one. And that is true, but I'm learning very profoundly about my need for godliness that I never felt before thanks to my husband's and my rural endeavors.

Our bushes are half-dead, and I'm less than half done pruning them. I just finished trimming the vines back from tearing up the eaves of the house. We spent I don't want to think about how many hours tilling, planting, watering, weeding, and putting a fence around our garden, and yet we still have more thistles, cocaburrs, devils claws, goatheads, and other assorted weeds than we do wanted plants, and the food-bearing plants are being eaten up by rabbits, birds, and bugs, while drying out in the heat. I've spent probably at least 10 hours training the dogs to watch over rather than kill the chickens, and then this morning I found them tormenting one that I had missed when I last gathered them into the pen. Plus of course they chew things they shouldn't, spread trash around when they think they haven't gotten enough attention, tear down the screen door, run off ...

Cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground,for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
Genesis 3:18-19

All this trouble is the curse of sin. Christ reverses the curse, but how far the reversal goes for us today is up to us. There are stories of saints who were so close to God they could tell lions or bears what to do and they would docilely obey. There are theologians who theorize that without the fall men could not only do that, but even control the weather and such. Not so today; sin has broken our communion with God our Father, and with nature our charge. It doesn't obey us usually without force, and it would be a terrible thing if it did, because we would use that power destructively. We can do things about the thorns and thistles and problematic animals, but it is so much work. Exhausting work, that was meant to be pleasant. So having to do all this work makes me really wish I was a saint who could just tell my dogs once what to do, who could either make the weeds go somewhere else or make them become harmless, useful plants (maybe something the critters want more than our food!), and who could make it rain .2 inches every night.

While that doesn't sound like very pious reasoning (I want to be a godlier so life would be easier), it actually is the lesson I'm supposed to learn. The troubles of these living things reflect the troubles of me. My heart is thorny as a thistle and ravenous as a rabbit. I won't have the power to cultivate critters without force until my heart is cultivated, made a beautiful and vibrant sanctuary that praises God without dissonance. Agriculture makes me desire God desperately because it gives me a vision of what life is like if God reigns and fills it all. I hope my life, and the curriculum I develop, impart some of that desire to many others.

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