Cultivating a Soul: What Farming Can Teach You About Personal Growth
Yesterday morning, when the baby started crying, my 8 year old daughter ran out of bed to get him so that my husband and I could sleep a little longer. After nearly a decade of constant exhaustion spread over the rearing of four children, getting those extra 15 minutes of rest was divine. It wasn’t the sleep itself that meant so much, but rather, where it came from. See, my 8 year old daughter used to be the infant who never napped and spent most of every night screaming.
As I thought about how the child who stole our sleep had become the child who guarded our sleep, the verse from tehillim (psalms) echoed in my head. “Those who sow in tears will reap in joy.” My husband and I had worked so hard for so long, and suddenly we were beginning to see the fruits of our labor.
Although I dislike dirt, unnecessary physical exertion, and being in the middle of nowhere for more than a few hours at a time (or, let’s be honest, at all), it occurred to me that farming is probably chock full of life lessons. The ancient Israelites were an agricultural people, I think in part because there are truths that one can uncover within the dirt. This city girl can barely keep a silk plant alive, yet if I had the chance to till the land, I’m certain it would lead to many discoveries about my own growth.
Discoveries like patience. Farming requires hard work, but only yields results after much waiting. In the world we live, no one wants to wait for anything anymore, but spiritual development requires patience, as it simply can’t be sped up. Also, successful farming isn’t just about the effort that the farmer puts in, it’s equally about the forces he can’t control. And so the Jewish way of farming is toil the earth and then beseech the Heavens for rain in its proper time (as we are praying right now, during the rainy season in Israel). So too, with personal growth, we must put in our best efforts to develop and change, but praying for help from Above is a necessary part of the equation. Farming would teach me to put in my best efforts, put in my best prayers, and then wait for the results.
Finally, farming isn’t something that’s faked. Sure, genetic engineering and hydroponics exist, but for the most part, crops come forth from the ground today just as they always have – only after there’s been plowing, sowing, watering, harvesting, all in the right seasons. Too many things are faked nowadays in the rest of the world. Singers are faked with autotunes. Models are faked with photoshop. Even photographers are faked with editing software programs like Instragram. No one wants to go through a process anymore. Everyone’s looking for short cuts.
But spiritual development can never be cut short. It must be labored over, prayed for, and given time. And then, one day, something as sublime as sleeping in on a Sunday morning will emerge.