God asked me to empty my pockets and buy a fallow field.
On a cold January morning in an empty house I was praying as I put away socks and wiped counters. A few weeks into the new year I was still asking, “God, what do you want me to do this year?”
I already knew. A vivid dream had lurched me awake and then was translated and confirmed by loving friends. But I was playing dumb.
That strange dream involved a silent midnight farmer’s market with technicolor fruits and a chalkboard sky. It ended with an older woman begging me to choose between “dying in one year or living on 75% less.” Jesus even showed up in the dream and told me the choice was mine with a gentle smile. I woke up troubled.
Last year my family helped raise $20,000 for clean water in Africa. It was a soul-stretching and awe-inspiring year that bound the five of us together in a common compassionate vision. I came alive helping my kids paint, make soap, stir lemonade, and teaching people they could be World Changers with just a $1 donation. I loved it.
But maybe I loved it too much? I loved how “other” it was, compared to my stay-at-home-mom-of-intense-kids-with-traveling-husband life. I preferred the importance of raising awareness and money for a global cause over raising my kids. My husband saw it. My friends cautioned me.
When I had that dream a week after the $20,000 goal was met I knew the meaning. I didn’t think I was choosing between cancer or Chris taking a significant pay cut. I knew this was about my heart.
I acquiesced to “live on 75% less” with the huge disclaimer that I didn’t know what that meant. Every time I wrote in my prayer journal I would ask, “God, what does living on 75% less mean? Will you show me?”
On that January morning I distinctly heard God say to my heart, “empty your pockets and buy a fallow field.” I knew my question was being answered. It was an ambiguous, poetic, and incredibly attractive answer. I got my journal and Bible Gateway and started to research and reflect:
- Empty your pockets: The little bit I had left, whatever I could feel and find in the corners, I had to lay on the counter.
- Pockets: No one carries a fortune in their pockets. God wanted me to give him the little things I keep close.
- Buy: God wants me to choose to invest.
- Fallow field: An unused field that is left alone to restore nutrients and benefit future harvests.
I googled “fallow field” for hours and learned fascinating things about prairie restoration, medieval farming, the Year of Jubilee, and the Shmita Jewish agricultural cycle. On a silent retreat with my church I spent a snowy afternoon in my room learning how butterflies, birds, and deer return to fields left fallow. That image captivated me. I asked God to do that in my heart.
The next week, in the middle of a Polar Vortex, I looked out my window to see my yard filled with birds. In February. Robins and starlings were plump on my front steps, happy in my window boxes, bushes, and trees. They weren’t in any neighbors’ yards, just mine. I was breathless. I took pictures. I thanked God. He was going to return the beautiful things I’d driven away. I cried with thanksgiving and hope. The birds came to visit two more times.
Still I struggled. Surely God didn’t want me to drop my commitments? Oh, but He did. Weather, sickness and cancellations released me from volunteering, fun events, and big meetings, despite my efforts to keep them all on the calendar. I felt like I wasn’t needed. I felt stupid.
Instead of praying about all the great God-honoring activities I was happy to be a part of, God wants me to pray about my heart. Repentance and rest are my primary activities now. All the activity I happily (and I thought obediently) chose allowed me to keep a part of my heart from God.
I got a $150 ticket for talking on the phone in my car. I chit-chat 75% less because I can’t use my phone in the car anymore. I now watch about 75% less TV and have read 20+ books. I say no to 75% of the activities offered because they will feed the remnants of my selfish-ambition.
The 25% left is dreadfully unappealing, to tell you the truth. I am called to be at home with my kids. I would much rather research gourmet lemonade recipes to sell for a nonprofit than cook, clean, drive, check homework, and use the stain-stick on gross things. In fallow field imagery, I’d rather jump in the cab of my noisy tractor alone and bounce down the field making straight lines than get out and pick fruit with my little girls.
I’m still learning about fallow fields. There are tall weeds in my heart. I see them more clearly, and it hurts when I pull them out. I keep apologizing to my husband, kids, and close friends. I didn’t know how my busy-ness hurt them. I didn’t know I wasn’t listening. And when I pray it’s different, quiet, and vulnerable, with less of an agenda. It’s abiding instead of doing. As a recovering legalist and perfectionist this is harsh medicine, but necessary if I’m ever going to understand the grace God keeps offering.
I am treasuring this year. I love how comfortable the quiet is getting. I’m becoming a better listener. I feel more generous and less bitter. I see beauty everywhere and my heart leaps. I believe God loves me, the real me, because I’m not doing much to perform for Him. It’s just me and my 25%.
This was originally posted by Church of the Resurrection on 11/05/14.
You can find more thoughts on our shared spiritual journey at Soul.
© Aimee Fritz and Family Compassion Focus, 2014-2015.