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A Season of Laying Fallow

I have been fallow for a while. Occasionally a person needs a season of diminished productivity, lying fallow. This, of course, is an agricultural term for a field that is left untilled or planted to allow it to rest and rejuvenate. I am at the end of one such season and so I offer some observations.

Lying fallow is difficult. In western culture we are so programmed for productivity and constantly bombarded with demands and an endless stream of activities that it is really difficult to let go and rest without feeling a mantle of guilt descend upon us. I spent significant time wrestling with guilt over my inability to find either motivation or self-discipline to do much more.

Lying fallow is not well defined. I didn’t know that it would take me a little more than a year to return to writing my articles. Lying fallow was not limited to writing articles. I did only as much as needed to fulfill basic responsibilities from March through the middle of July of this year. I had no idea when the malaise would end.

Lying fallow is necessary. Most of the people I know are running on low or empty tanks. I remember reading about the difference between taking a vacation and going on holiday. Vacation is to vacate, to empty oneself. So we vacate our premises and go somewhere else to engage in a constant stream of activities of a different kind. How many have you heard comment that they need a week to recover from their vacation?

Holiday, on the other hand, is derived from holy day. One of the primary purposes of holy days is to stop to contemplate things greater or beyond ourselves and thereby be drawn up into the divine. It is an occasion to stop and let ourselves refill spiritually. Lying fallow falls along this line of thinking. And it may take a while to come to that full stop. Once we do, once we take that deep breath and relax into it, we begin to truly rest and rejuvenate. Among the clergy and in education this is referred to taking a sabbatical.

It’s no coincidence that sabbatical comes from Sabbath the old Jewish practice of taking one day in seven to rest from our labor. I think we have to take sabbaticals because we fail to take a regular, weekly Sabbath. One important outcome of my recent season of lying fallow is that my wife and I have committed ourselves to take one day in seven to rest. This has already proven to be of benefit. I have observed that I am more focused and productive in the six days than I was in seven which leads to my last observation.

Lying fallow results in renewed vigor. Just as a field that is left to lie fallow produces increased yields when it is returned to cultivation so we can enjoy renewed vigor physically, mentally and spiritually after such a season. In the few weeks since the return of my vigor I have accomplished much that I found myself too weary to attempt. I am more patient and gentle with my wife. I am eager to begin each day. And I take time to stop and take in the view from where I am where before I was driven to keep my head down to get where I thought I needed to be.

If you find yourself unable to move forward, consider letting some things go, taking extra rest and time to let yourself lie fallow.

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