Faith: farming or schooling?

I can break down my own personal faith journey into one of two camps whereby faith is either treated like a farm or like schooling. Neither one is better than the other, but my faith has evolved from the latter into the former; and I have spent years learning to become more and more comfortable with the growth process of faith as farming rather than schooling.

The farming metaphor of my spiritual journey into and with God tends to see the spiritual life through the lens of what farming looks like: ploughing earth; planting seeds; cultivation; seasonal; ritual; laborious; filled with both droughts and deluge; feeding; sustaining; rewarding; plenty; scarcity; menial; painful; boring; joy-filled.  But above all life giving.  Farming involves co-creation, partnership, and is less hierarchical.  In this farming metaphor, the earth (or God in this instance) has its place and I know mine in relation to it.

The schooling metaphor (and schooling is not to be confused with ‘education’ from the Latin word, educare meaning to “draw forth from within”) was one that I framed my spiritual life in early on in my intentional faith journey. I looked at faith and even God as like a schooling metaphor which included seeing faith like this: compensatory, laborious; ubiquitous standards; something I dreaded doing, had to do, and was told would get me ahead more quickly the more of it (schooling) I got; it also included cramming; caring only about what is on the test; and overall not be able to wait to graduate from it so I could get on with life.

You can see by these metaphors how the farming one has been a richer one for my life than my schooling metaphor. Farming involves being on partnership with that which is greater than me, allowing things to grow wild sometimes. Schooling always involved being told in Kindergarten to ‘color within the lines.’

School is a great deal like that – drawing lines and teaching people to stay within them..or else our grades will suffer.

But I think faith, and God, are more like farming – not always so neat and tidy, messy, hard work, seasonal, organic rituals that are organically connected to the natural order of things. Farming is cyclical, but it evolves and changes from season to season, yearly as well. One year, corn is planted, the next soy, the next, the fields may be left to grow wild in order for the nutrient rich earth to replenish itself.  My faith is like farming in that way.

It can be summed up maybe something like this…God as Creator (THE grand farmer) fallows out the dry ground of our souls, planting this seed or that one, watering all in Divine Love in order that our life might be abundant, grow deeply and upwardly, out into this world as a gift and find harvest so as to feed and be fed.

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