As fall seems to have failed this year and winter to have settled in far too soon, I believe today is a good day to begin dreaming and planning for the landscaping and gardening of the spring to come. A little early? Perhaps, but what lends itself better to progression than preparedness? The perfect spring garden always begins two seasons before. And the one who enjoys it most is the one who has the time to enjoy it.
Pause. So what does this push to become an over-achiever have to do with horticulture in the Bible? I’m glad you asked. Play.
In thinking about all of the horticultural references in the Bible, those that move me most are those that tell me to move. Falling in line with the rest of humanity, I can use the extra push sometimes. If I were challenged, however, to narrow the list of these references down to one, I’d have to go with the following verse in Hosea. The complexity of its push resonates well. But it’s not only the push that moves me – it’s the dream. And it’s not only the push and the dream, it’s the mystery to be unlocked. And it’s not only the push and the dream and the mystery, it’s the promise.
Through the prophet Hosea, God says to ancient Israel: Sow with a view to righteousness, Reap in accordance with kindness; Break up your fallow ground, For it is time to seek the Lord Until He comes to rain righteousness on you (Hosea 10:12, NASB).
Sow, reap, break up. Good, some instruction. But what seed is there to sow at this time of year that won’t be dead before it hits the ground? What is there to reap? Good questions. Let’s get back to them in just a moment. Look at the third line – Break up your fallow ground.
Fallow ground, in this context refers to all of the ways that ancient Israel fell short of the will of the Lord. Hearts had become hardened as fields that are left untended for many years will. Break up your fallow ground. Till it. Plow it. Loosen it up and make it fertile again. Good, more instruction. But here’s the mystery for both ancient Israel and for you and me this day and through this winter: Where is our fallow ground? And this is where, for me, the figurative speech becomes a literal search.
Where is my untended ground? What areas of my life or, certainly, even my garden have been left alone for too long? Why the silence when there should be singing? Why the neglect when there should be love? Why the weeds when there should be flowers? Why a sterile windowsill when there should be life? Plow it up!
It’s in the exercise – the questions and the wonder – that the dreaming begins. Yes, there may well be a little stinging sensation when you remember all that you thought to do this time last year but moved through twelve more months without having moved the needle. Fine. But dream again. Unveil your mystery – perhaps it truly is something so simple as the naggingly boring corner of your yard. Dream and make plans. Don’t let the winter go fallow.
And as you plan, try to tie your dreams to something bigger than a corner that no longer looks drab. Sow with a view to righteousness. Something far larger. The long view. And as all that you dream and plan and sow comes to fruition, reap in accordance with kindness. Can your vegetables be given away? Can your new landscape be a conversation-starter with your new neighbor? Tying your dreams and efforts to something far larger than simple completion is often motivation to keep moving. To keep dreaming. To keep seeking a deeper meaning to life and trusting that all ends well for those who take the plow in preparation to the field which was once only dreams.