In the Harvest Feast or the Fallow Ground
This song has been stuck in my head for weeks. Do you think God does that sometimes? Like HE puts the songs in our head ... little refrains that bring peace, or wisdom, or patience, or prayers when we need them most?
I don't know. Yesterday I had "Consider yourself at home" from Oliver stuck in my head. We were hanging a new light in the dining room ... I suppose it's an appropriate tune for home improvement?
Aside from that slight escape into the world of Broadway musicals and spin-off movies, I've had these lines from a precious Sandra McCracken hymn repeating in my head:
In the harvest feast or the fallow ground,
my certain Hope is in Jesus found.
My lot, my cup, my portion sure
Whatever comes, we shall endure.
The whole song is lovely, and it speaks to my soul in a way that only Sandra (and Patty Griffin ... and Andrew Peterson ... ) can.
It's a song that seems so particularly pertinent to our life right now in so many ways - it's no wonder it's been endlessly repeating in my head. I found myself humming it the other night as I made a totally seasonal and CSA-sponsored dinner of eggplant parmesan and peach-blueberry cobbler. We are in a sweet harvest right now: I actually gasped when I opened my box today because it was so pretty and bursting with delicious things like red peppers and purple eggplants and yellow squashes. Delightful!
I like to frame my life in food, in seasons of celebration and sadness, of harvest and fallow. And these seasons of food and rich produce that we delight in now are both preparation for the end of summer and the beginning of barren winter, and a rejoicing of this sweet season that has finally come after a long winter and empty spring. It's a short season, and we are celebrating it to its fullest.
Thinking about food in "seasons" is not something we do very well as a culture. I've been anxiously awaiting the arrival of this year's eggplant, knowing that it will be delicious to savor in a way that grocery-store-eggplant-in-January never will be. I haven't had eggplant since this time last year, and I probably will not have it again until next August. It's better that way. I'm not as disciplined with strawberries, or asparagus, even though I regret it every time I bite into a store-bought strawberry in December, or March, or even now in August. I know better ... but I can't give up hope that maybe - just maybe! - it will taste as good as my farm-fresh May treats. But they won't. And God didn't intend them to.
God gives us seasons, and I know I have a tendency (as I suspect most of you do too) to ignore them and demand an August harvest. All the time. I want eggplants in January and strawberries in March. I want the perfect job, more money, more time to spend at home to cook and clean for Price, a bigger house with a yard, a puppy, 3 kids, a graduate degree, summers in New England, all the people I love in the same town, and a million other things that God just hasn't deemed it time for yet. So I wait, in this season of expectation but also joy.
Our trip to New England was a journey through the past for me ... to revisit the roads and the mountains and the lakes that framed my childhood and my college summers. I was there with my husband, on a journey as part of our new life, and the stark newness of the whole experience shocked me. There was a sad sweetness to the whole thing, the passing away of the old and the clumsy embrace of the new. But isn't that what life is like, on repeat? Old, then new, which becomes old, then new. And so pass the seasons. We said good-bye to my grandmother's house, and the decade of memories to cherish from that place. I cried every night. It was cathartic and full and terrifying and relieving, all rolled into one.
I brought home her china, delicately wrapped between old linens and tablecloths, to grace my table: fallow china ready for a new table.
Fallow (adj): plowed and left unseeded for a season or more; uncultivated.
I think that word is what strikes me most about this hymn: FALLOW. Not dead. Not forgotten. Not empty for all time.
FALLOW is uncultivated ... able to produce, but left empty for a season. Intentionally? Not intentionally? Who knows. But it's not forgotten. And with an assurance like "my portion sure," it rings with the hope of the harvest. And what's so joyful about our lives as Christians is that the harvest is coming in an eternal way, when the old is gone and the new has come and the earth will be reborn in perpetual harvest.
So until that Harvest comes, there will be seasons in my kitchen and seasons in my life, and I ache for more patience in both. I have yet to embrace the idea of "my portion sure," but I am learning it with each new season. It is not a lesson that God hesitates to teach, and it is often one we stubborn children hesitate to learn. But what a delight to know that my portion is always sure. Always. In feast or in fallow, whether I believe it or not, my portion is sure.