Have you ever rolled a stop sign? Or heard someone say that stop signs with the white border around them are “just suggestions”? Somehow, when we drive, we can become so focused on where we need to get to that we forget the rules of how we get there. [For the record, this can get you a ticket – or even arrested. Just saying.] It can be like that in our lives, too.
In the world of farming, it’s suggested that a field be allowed to “lay fallow,” that is, that nothing will be planted in that field for a season. Some farmers even propose the field be allowed to soak up nutrients for a year periodically, because an excessive crop can be grown in the same field the following year. Imagine that – stopping, resting, being still lead to something more abundant later!
That’s something we’re not very good at, especially in America. We live in a society that is constantly pushing for more – more stuff, more work, more time … to get stuff and do work. And yet, that Biblical influence in our lives reminds us of things that God has said, like, “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10) or prophetic reminders like Isaiah 40:31, “But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”
So here’s our big chance. In the middle of a global pandemic, in the middle of something that none of us saw coming and realistically none of us want, we can choose to come to a full stop, a time of laying fallow, a reminder to take Sabbath and breathe.
What we do during this stoppage time matters – how we guard our hearts against the messages of despair and pessimism, how we focus on prayer in conversation (talking and listening), how we spend our time with the people we’re quarantined with. But it is also going to matter how we spend the time afterward. Because the fallow time is for a purpose.
In Exodus, it says, “during the seventh year let the land lie unplowed and unused. Then the poor among your people may get food from it, and the wild animals may eat what is left”; in Hosea 10:12 it read, “Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes and showers his righteousness on you.” The ground isn’t left fallow for no reason; it’s not just to give it a break, but to prepare it for what comes next, for what it’s purpose was in the first place.
Friends, we are at a time where we can use this fallowing, where we can re-center our hearts aimed at God. We can focus on what God is saying to us in the stillness as we listen, to see the people in our lives who need us in the quiet moments, and then come bursting forth when the quarantine ends to sow the righteousness that God has been working in the world since the beginning of time.
In the words of the prophet Samuel, “Stand still and see the mighty work God is about to do.”