The following blog was first printed in Seasons: A Guide for Growing, a publication of Little Tree Farm & Retreat in cooperation with UMAR, an art ministry of the United Methodist Church. I was pleased to be asked to write for this great little magazine. Click on the link above for the whole webzine. Little Tree is an intentional Christian community in Lincoln County, North Carolina started by Jason & Joanie Williams and Derek & Amber Dunn with foci on sustainable farming, rural poverty ministries, and spiritual retreats. To learn more about their ministry, click on this link. Now, onto the blog…
Spring is a messy, smelly business.
In the darkness of decay, of soggy humus – organic matter breaking down under the winter’s constant dampness – the seeds of new life hibernate, waiting for the warming soil to crack them open. There in the remains of former seasons lie the nutrients that will feed seedlings, whose tender shoots crawl into rotting crevasses to draw out the stored energy of past life. Bend down and drive your hands below the layer of last fall’s leaves into the moist soil below and smell the earth as you bring hands back out with mud and mulch clinging to your fingers. For some, this is the smell of heaven. Rich soil that will bring a bounty come harvest. For others, this organic goo is filthy – worms, dead bugs and rotting debris. They cannot get their hands washed fast enough.
Hope is a messy, smelly business.
“Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. For darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will appear over you.” [Isaiah 60:1-2] Speaking out of the Jewish exile in Babylon, the prophet spoke of the LORD’s light rising through the darkness that covers the earth, and a thicker darkness that covers people. This word of hope was born out of the darkness of exile, fed from broken blessings and shattered truth. Its tender shoots crawl into the buried dreams of previous generations to draw out the stored energy of past faith. Hibernating in the darkness of suffering, hope reclaims the remains of former life. The light of hope arises from petitions for justice long denied. It appears from revised beliefs once trusted. For some, this is the smell of heaven, an ancient-future faith. For others, this organic goo of the suffering past is filthy and should be washed away as soon as possible.
Resurrection is a messy, smelly business.
The cornerstone of the Christian faith is that Easter resurrection came out of Good Friday crucifixion. “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” [John 12:24] We cannot get to Easter without being willing to dig our hands into dirty mess of Good Friday. Promises broken. Tragedy suffered. Injustices endured. Regrets acknowledged. God resurrects life from our painful past. Not as it once was, but remade as a new creation. If we are not willing to look at the darkness inside of us, and instead wish to wash it away, we will not see the light arising from within us. There is an untapped richness in that which we have lost. This truth is experienced every spring we work the land.
From humus God creates human kind. From death God resurrects life.