Adam and I used to want to own land. Several acres, a spacious plot of earth to call our own, and no one else around it. There’s a country song, “I Want to Live Where the Green Grass Grows”; it was our motto of sorts. Then God did something in our hearts and we fell in love with the city, particularly our city, and the country music faded.
But we’ve seen God in the garden over and over, so as we cemented our roots in the heart of Kansas City, we’ve begun to cultivate our own Eden, and watch it spread, sucker and vine over parts of our yard and neighborhood. A community garden here, a neighborhood lot there planted with corn and potatoes, kale and zinnias. And we saw the kingdom of heaven. It was organic, figuratively and literally. It was good.
So as I’ve weeded and cultivated the ground of my home and my soul these past five years, I see correlation between the farm, garden and food, and the church. The conversation seems largely the same. We’re wondering if institutional models work as well at nourishing our bodies and souls as we originally believed. We’re seeing how a large farm of one crop (or gifting) can deplete the earth (or church) and create a harvest that isn’t as healthy in the long run.
Some have merged nature and technology to change the DNA of the seed. They hope to grow a bigger harvest faster, but we’re finding that they may be growing tumors instead. And the church, in the rush to gain yield, is seeing the cancer of consumerism and individualism take over in places, growing a GMO church that has lost its heirloom DNA, the identity placed in us, the missionary people of God.
I meet people who are so far removed from the process of growing their food and their souls that if pulled off the life support that is our institutional system, they would not be able to care for themselves. What was intended as a shortcut to feed and nurture our people has accidentally taken something vital from them, their abiding connection to the branch, and the knowledge (innate and learned) of how to grow and live.
However, there is another way, and though it seems new to me that is far from the truth; I’ve only just discovered it. Permaculture has been around since the dawn of time and it will always remain. A slow movement to grow life in ways that are complementary and symbiotic. This way recognizes and celebrates a unity in people and plants that, though quite different from each other, are all valued for their gifts. They strengthen instead of threaten one another. Permaculture, rather than monoculture, uses diversity to build up all the parts of the whole. And the garden of our soil and souls flourishes.
I don’t have all or maybe any of the answers to the questions of institution and organization; their place is useful but their abuse is painful. I do know to plant seeds in fertile soil, water them and look to the Giver of Life. And the harvest is beautiful. It isn’t like the supermarket with only perfectly round, blemish-free fruit. There are some wild brambles and the fruit takes different shapes; there’s nothing uniform except the DNA, the taste, the spirit, that is the same. And it is good.
Keep this conversation going. Add your voice with comments. You can also tweet at the author Courtney Christensen @cechristensen.