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Surprised by Providence

January 17, 2020 by

Cherry tomatoes in a dish - photo by Elaine Casap

A few years ago, my wife and I spent a week at an off-the-grid community farm in the Midwest. We really enjoyed it; even traipsing to the outhouse with a candle in the middle of the night. There were no phones, television, electricity, or gas motors. No radio, no pagers, nada. We two-dozen guests assembled four or five times each day to work together, worship together, share needs together. Of course, guests had their SUVs parked on the far edge of the one-hundred-acre property, waiting until the month of internship was over, but as Ethan, the team leader said: “This is not about imposing guidelines on each other, but about voluntarily enriching our lives through the removal of unnecessary mental and spiritual clutter.”

So how do we know, from day to day, what technology to use or remove? What will be the most positive for the environment and our spiritual, inner, condition? What choices – dietary, lifestyle, agricultural – do we make in the myriad of options?

That question has puzzled me quite sorely, since I have seen whole communities and movements ravaged by this discussion. A thriving farm goes no-spray, crops fail, and recriminations abound. Or, a company streamlines production and there is a drop in quality as well as no work for the aged or unskilled.

Then, one day, I had an epiphany! It was based on the typical statement of satisfaction that Pastor John M. Perkins used to utter when things worked out unexpectedly: “The Lord provides!”

The Great Creator in the heavens often does provide help of all kinds in surprising ways, and who are we to dictate how he provides? If I am starving and a loaf of bread appears, do I reject it because it’s not labeled “certified organic”? If a neighbor plows my field and uses gasoline instead of veggie oil for fuel, should I then scream at him or thank him?

Who, having had a heart attack, will ask if the saline drip is organic?

The Lord above provides in very practical ways, and we tend to make things very complicated. In general, we tend to try to apply a set of rules to our lives, well-meant, but clumsy. Rules are no substitute for an awakened conscience, no substitute for living by agape, the spirit of love and brotherhood. A sister or a brother, in the extended sense, is someone we trust, and someone we do not constantly investigate as to whether they are serving us correctly, or meeting our ideals of an organic life.

In the end it is about trusting God. He provides, and considers every aspect – the ultimate holistic approach – and when someone offers help of any kind out of genuine love and care, we should be very wary of refusing. Where love is, there God is.

It may be that this approach sends our lives in a more organic, natural, and tech-free direction. I am not advising against these things at all, but rather that “letting go and letting God” frees our lives from constantly checking the rule book and hurting others who are trying to help.

Meanwhile, see you in the kale patch – or, considering the season, in the cold frame!

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About the author

Simon Mercer

Simon Mercer

Simon Mercer is a free-thinking Anabaptist, would-be poet who lives at the Maple Ridge Bruderhof.

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