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Working the Soil

God was the first worker of the soil. He formed man from the dust of the earth and breathed His breath into his nostrils, and man became a living creature. God planted a garden and took the man He had made and placed him there. You might say that God planted the man, like a seed, in the garden He had cultivated for just such a person. When later the woman had been formed, God told them to be fruitful and multiply. Why else do you plant seeds, but for them to bear fruit and multiply? God has thus shown Himself to be the great Cultivator, an investor capable of multiplying goodness and beauty and ensuring that the life under His care flourishes. We might also press the analogy of the gardener to say that God doesn't mind getting his hands dirty. In fact, He brings forth some amazingly glorious work from dirt, dust and ashes.

God made Man (mankind) in His image and called him to be a worker of the soil as well. Man was to be a cultivator, bringing forth and multiplying goodness and beauty and laboring to see that all the lesser creatures under his care flourished. And let's face it – the life of all creatures, mankind included, is tied to the soil in a profoundly intimate way. If the land is well cared for, the land in return yields all manner of vegetation – food, clothing, and housing for all, and beauty in abundance. The converse is true as well.

We have some friends who bought some farmland on John's Island a few years ago. It had been mismanaged and then ignored. The fields were overgrown. Buildings were falling apart or collapsed. Some smaller buildings were probably used as crack houses. Drug deals and worse were done on the land. It became a dark and twisted place, like the runaway vines and brush that stood as high as your chest. In many ways, the land was a picture of what the community around it had become – collapsing, despairing, unfruitful, dark.

But then our friends bought it. They cleared the debris and collapsing buildings from the land. They bush-hogged, cleared, tilled and replanted the fields. They built new buildings for the care of the workers and those who came to check out the activity. New relationships were forged and developed. Hay is now grown for neighboring horse owners, fruit trees have been planted, and the fields currently are full of tall, beautiful sunflowers that were grown to feed the doves in the area. The place is beautiful and productive again, and the transformation of the land is beginning to have a transforming effect on the community.

Darkness may be contagious. But it only takes a little light to send the darkness packing. Beauty and goodness are contagious too. Investing in our communities in this way can bring about the flourishing of land, animals and people. Pray for our friends and their newfound mission. And pray for opportunities to invest in and labor for the transformation of our own communities.

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