The whole earth shall cry glory...
"When we stop trying to fix and control other people," writes Cathleen Falsani, "or to try to love them into behaving the way we want them to... then all sorts of things start to happen... When we give up fixing, controlling and thinking our ideas are good ones, then the plates of the earth start to shift." (Sin Boldly, p. 109)
Friday is our Sabbath, so I practiced trying to stop fixing and controlling other people for a bit: instead, we turned under our vegetable garden for the winter. I got one tiny pumpkin out of a morass of vines, we weeded and raked up countless wheelbarrows of debris and added a year's worth of compost to the soil. We dug up more garden space, too, so that next year we might harvest twice as many tomatoes and eggplants to say nothing of some cayenne peppers, squash, peas and who knows what!
It was a joyous day of digging and resting, taking in the autumn sunlight while it lasts and trusting - like Rabbi Heschel teaches - that God can get along without us for 24 hours because... God is God!
After showers and iced tea, I came across an old pamphlet on "a spirituality of sabbath" I wrote for an urban church I served in Cleveland, Ohio about a hundred years ago. "The prophet Isaiah once told the people of God," it begins, "that the Holy One was not interested in empty ritual or ancient words: rather the Sacred yearns for heart, soul and an active faith that is alive." It ends with this poem by Antonio Machado:
The wind, one brilliant day,
called to my soul with an
odor of jasmine.
"In return for the odor of my
jasmine, I'd like all the odor
of your roses."
"I have no roses; all the flowers
in my garden are dead."
"Well then, I'll take the
withered petals and the yellow
leaves and the waters of the
The wind left. And I wept.
And I said to myself:
"What have you done with the
garden that was entrusted to
What a humble reminder: I still find resting easier to think about than experience - and even as I get better and embrace Sabbath more fully - it so quickly eludes me, too. Buechner wrote:
We try so hard as Christians. We think such long thoughts, manipulate such long words and both listen to and preach such long sermons. Each one of us somewhere, somehow, has known, if only for a moment or so, something of what it is to feel the shattering love of God, and once that has happened, we can never rest easy again for trying somehow to set that love forth not only in words, myriads of words, but in our lives themselves. And when, as must always happen, we sometimes give up this trying either because for a moment it seems unreal or because we are tired or bored or because we forget or choose to forget, we cannot even enjoy our moment's release for the sense of failure that chokes us... And yet we have scarcely any choice but to go on trying no matter what, and there is much that is beautiful and brave and true about it all. Yet we must remember this other word, too: "Unless you turn and become like children..."
Thank God there's more gardening and dirt to play in tomorrow!
(Pictures: Dianne De Mott)