Life lessons from the land

Recently, I have come face to face with my own arrogance. This life lesson began several years ago when I had a bit of money and I decided to invest it in a piece of land northeast of Bancroft.

At the time there were several reasons for this decision. First, I trusted the value of land more than I trusted the bank’s ability to take care of my money. Second, I grew up in rural Ontario on a dairy farm and so part of me always longs to return to the land. And third, my body, mind and spirit are fed by Creation. As I write this I am sitting on the porch of a little hermitage that my friends and I built on this land.

As a Christian who acknowledges that “the earth is the Lord’s and all that is within it,” I struggled with the notion of “purchasing” land.

Yes, I know that accumulation of wealth, including property, is the heart of the economy of which we are a part. There are numerous portions of the Bible that talk about land and allow for some form of property ownership. God instructs Jeremiah to purchase land as a sign of hope for the future.   Jubilee texts like Leviticus 25 provide hope for those who become landless through debt, famine, disease or slavery by commanding rest for the land and its inhabitants every seven years and a massive redistribution of the land every 50 years.

But back to my discovery of my own arrogance: I told myself at the time that if the earth is the Lord’s and everything within it, then my “purchase” of the land was a way to pay for the privilege of taking care of this piece of God’s good creation.

Now, seven years following this clever rationalization, I stand corrected and humbled. In that time I have received from the land her wild strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. I have made pies and sauce from her apples. I have dreamed of making syrup from her sugar maples and am delighted by the scarlet audacity of her red maples in the fall. I have wandered her extensive forest and been blessed by the aroma of her stately pine, spruce, balsam and hemlock trees. I adore her ancient and twisted oaks and say a prayer of gratitude for the life-sustaining firewood these trees have dropped to the ground for my use during her almost uninhabitable winters. In the spring I laugh at the wind that dances in the poplars. In the summer the water of a swiftly flowing stream revives me and as I sit on the porch in the evening the mystical flute song of the wood thrush transports me to another world.

I do not and never have taken care of the land. She takes care of all her creatures, including me. May thanks be given to the Creator, our redeemer and sustainer.


Rev. Marilyn Zehr is the lead pastor at Toronto United Mennonite Church

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