At The Keep & Till, I’ve adopted a kind of mantra: “Failure is always an option!”
For me, this kind of thinking allows me the flexibility to try new things, and keeps me from unhelpful anxiety as we build something new. Everything we are doing is an experiment. We attempt to be thoughtful – even scientific – about the decisions we make: we begin with what we know, identify the questions we want to answer, and employ a process for discovering a potential opportunity. In the course of this work, we’ll try many things that don’t work or do not make sense in the context of this community. From a certain point of view, we celebrate that; “failure” is a critical part of figuring out who we really are and what we really are about as we do this work of agriculture, ecology, and spiritual formation.
Yet sometimes I wonder if this perspective adds an unnecessary burden, for sometimes I find myself expecting things to fail. Sometimes I expect that some important detail will have been overlooked. I expect that in the humid heat of the Mid-Atlantic, folks will simply stop caring about the gardens, and go back to the friendly confines of air-conditioning and Netflix. I expect that worship once a month will lose momentum, and folks will find another community of faith more vibrant, more active, and more capable of providing the atmosphere they seek. Certainly room for growth is acceptable and necessary, but I was descending in a place where failure obscures hope and prevents the joy of discovery.
My favorite line in the Magnificat reflects, “In the tender compassion of our God, the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.” Just when I’m about to descend into that hope-forsaken place, something always happens.
Just the other night I was sitting poolside watching my children swim. All of a sudden at the other end of the pool appears one of our finest volunteers. As it turns out, she and some friends had been in our garden for the better part of two hours weeding and maintaining our tomato patch. No announcement, no arrangement, no prodding. Just a few people who wanted to spend a few quiet moments raising food for others.
This past Sunday we celebrated our first baptism, a beautiful baby boy named Liam. To top it all off, we received a phone call a few weeks ago from a program working to feed children on free and reduced school meals throughout the summer. They were seeking as much fresh produce as we can provide.
In the daily grind of the agrarian church movement it is easy to forget that hope and joy are options too. As the Holy Spirit does what she does, we’ve discovered blessings in surprising and unexpected ways. Folks are considering faith in a way they never have before. People are (literally) getting fed. Relationships are being created or healed. The vision becomes clearer, and is shared by more and more people every day.
As K&T casts its gaze outward to the larger “food and faith” movement, we see this story played out all across the country. I’ve heard story after story of struggle and “failure” right alongside stories of growth, faith formation, and community in the fields, at the tables, and in the living rooms of those who want to walk with Jesus, more mindful of the soil from whence they came. This story of struggle and uncertainty followed by surprise and hope is nearly ubiquitous. The death of the seed seems to always be followed by a harvest.
So to all who are joined in this work of reconnecting God’s children to God’s earth, of shedding light on environmental health, of a fully incarnate faith, I want to offer encouragement. This journey will involve seasons of suffering and struggle, but faith, hope and love are our constant companions.
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