They say you can take the boy off the farm, but you can’t take the farm out of the boy. It is no surprise to those who know me that for most of my life my heart has yearned for land.
I like to think of the soul (our sense of being) as our rootedness in the soil. Like a plucked flower, it can survive for a while in a glass of water on the window sill. But that’s not its purpose. Not its wholeness. Not a whole life filled with seasons, seedings, blooming, wilting, and a final giving back to the soil itself. It’s life as pleasure rather than life as purpose. It’s life as futile rather than life as flourishing.
But I have yet another confession. I have told my origin story countless times beginning with the words, “I grew up on a farm in South Dakota.” While it is true that the majority of my childhood memories are imaged on my grandparents farm, the fully disclosed truth is that my family lived in a nearby small town. I desperately wanted to be considered a farm boy. But we lived north of Grandpa’s farm, up in the Black Hills, in the small town of Hot Springs, South Dakota.
So I suppose for my whole life I have longed to find soil for my soul. Fostered by the influence of my grandfather, I grew up with an embedded imagination that meaning, true work, faithful and honest living, neighborliness, and godliness were rooted in the care of the land. And today, as I listen to the voice of calling, as I seek to pastor, as I attempt to theologize…I find hope in the soil.
“The care of the earth is our most ancient and most worthy, and after all our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it and to foster its renewal is our only hope.” ― Wendell Berry