Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle chronicles the first year after her family’s move from Arizona to their farm in Appalachia and their vow to only eat what they can grow themselves or procure locally. They commit to this grow-your-own lifestyle out of environmental and health concerns, but they discover a much closer connection to the land than they expected and a deeper sense of gratitude. Although they feared being hungry during the winter months, they found that there was always plenty to eat. They also learned to anticipate the different seasons and each harvest, so much so that Kingsolver entitles one chapter, “Waiting for Asparagus.” Of course, they savored their asparagus all the more after having to wait months for it.
The book of Joel describes that same kind of interconnection between the people and the land. When the crops fail and the vineyards dry up, the suffering isn’t limited to the farmers and the grapes. The animals groan and wander without a pasture. The people suffer from not being able to bring their grain and fruit offerings to God. As the fruit trees dry up, Joel says, surely, joy withers away among the people (v. 12)
In Joel’s world, when the land suffers, everyone suffers. This reminds me of Frederick Buechner’s definition of compassion in his book Wishful Thinking, calling it “the sometimes fatal capacity for feeling what it’s like to live inside somebody else’s skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.”
Even in our modern world God calls us to a deeper empathy and compassion for all living things, to consider what we eat and when we eat it, and to be mindful of who grows it. To be aware is to be grateful.
How is God calling me to be more mindful in my daily habits? Could considering the source of what I eat and drink lead me to be more compassionate?
God, show me the difference between things I want and things I need. Help me to be more conscious of my abundant life and give you thanks. Amen.