signs of what's ahead

We raked a heavy cover of leaves off our back yard a few days ago, to let the sun get at the grass. It's beginning to green. The first signs of spring are appearing.

Which also means the farm work is beginning, and also talk about the busy months ahead. There's a little anxiety because one of the farm managers from last year is no longer here. A number of young people are coming to help for the summer, but how they will fit in (and if the farm can provide for them all) is also a concern.

I'm feeling the anxiety, too, and trying to brace myself for the months ahead. We already told people here that we plan to work half-time on the farm (and bakery) and half-time on retreat preparations. But I feel the pressures created by the needs of the farm (the big tractor just died and even used tractors are very expensive) and bakery ("So, when are you taking over?" I was asked this morning), and also the numerous other committees and activities looking for helpers here. I don't think people intend to apply pressure; it's just that they feel pressured themselves and end up passing it along.

It's good that we have the retreat work this summer. But I don't want the months ahead to just be a continual choice between farm and retreat work, which one gets more of my time and mental energy. I remembered something I wrote a year ago when we first arrived here:

I don't find much in Jesus' life and teaching that honors hard work. Jesus honors faith. He emphasizes and demonstrates complete dependence on God's will and God's power. And this clearly directs attention, not to us, but to God. Where our attention should always be directed.

This is what I need to focus on here, as I have been all along. I don't need to try to impress people by my hard work or try to build the retreat ministry quickly through long and intense efforts. God has prepared me already for what he wants me to bring here. And God has offered this place and vision to us as a gift, not as a product of our own minds and hands, but as an act of overwhelming generosity.
I think the real choice is between a work-focused struggle for our own survival and a faith-focused acceptance of the life given us by God, a life we cannot produce for ourselves, a life for which we can never claim credit. A life not lived for its own sake, but for the sake of the Giver.

I'm not sure yet how that choice will play out practically. But I know it involves more than the question of which work (farm or retreat) is more important. We've tried to shape the retreat work to emphasize dependence on God above all, but that it not enough. If it is going to have any true value, it has to come out of a life that is focused on listening to God, the true giver of life, not a life focused on listening to managers, investors, and tax collectors.

For the sake of others here, too. What is needed is definitely not more hands laboring, but new inspiration, a new spirit, new life.