by Meg Jenista
“‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 19:9-10
When was the last time you were bored? Not just starting the slide but well and truly tumbling down the boredom hill?
The average cell phone user checks his or her phone 150 times a day. Average smartphone users spend 195 minutes a day on their device.
Scientists and psychologists have released studies stating that our brains are actually undergoing transformation as a result of living in a time and society in which people have any number of distractions that keep them from having to rely on internal resources, devise their own activities.
Moses teaches the people to leave a margin at the edge of their fields for those who are hungry and in need. The action Moses prohibits–-going back over the field a second time–expresses the action of plowing fields right out to the margins and then going back over for fear of leaving anything undone or left behind. The text is clear that this action is actually a violence against others who need what we have at the margins and what is left over.
I live in Washington DC. We are not an agrarian people. Time is the greatest commodity of our work here. We get paid by the hour, keep time sheets, log billable hours. What, then, does it mean to leave margin at the edge of our schedules? What does it mean not to go back over our schedules and fill in every blank increment of time? To leave that time available for those who might have need of it? What kind of violence do we perpetuate against others and against ourselves when we work in this pressured, frenzied mode?
When God commands the people to let their fields lie fallow on the 7th year, the Sabbath year, God also promises, “Then the poor of your people may get food from it and the wild animals may eat what they leave.” And “Whatever the land yields during the Sabbath year will be food for you …” Do you hear it? Even when you don’t plow and plant and weed and tend and harvest, the land will produce. It will produce, it says in Leviticus 25, “for yourself, your male and female servants, and the hired worker and temporary resident who live among you as well as for your livestock and the wild animals in your land.”
God provides abundance through the work of our hands AND God provides abundance in the tasks we have left undone. Inasmuch as God asks us to let go control, to let things be, to honor the fact that, in our limited humanity, we will necessarily leave good things undone, God is also inviting us to see, to notice and to celebrate what God can do in fallow places.
When we accept that we are not in control.
When we leave our field unplanted.
When we leave our schedules open.
When we leave our work undone.
When we leave our world alone.
When we feel the feelings.
When we accept the boredom.
We are privileged to see and to know again that
God works in the fallow places.
Meg Jenista is the pastor of DC Christian Reformed Church in Washington, DC.