The Benefits of Being Unproductive

(Please don’t be jealous!) I just returned from a full week out of town and away with my wife. No kids. No work email. No social media. Complete rest, enjoyment, reading, exploring new towns and new foods. Since I have returned, I’ve noticed an enormous change in my soul.

I am much quicker to listen, slower to speak, and slower to become angry. I have a much deeper well of grace to offer my kids. I am judging people less and dwelling on the goodness of Christ more. I have a wave of spiritual strength that is bolstering me. When I look back over our week away, I’m surprised by the fact that I didn’t really do much of anything. And that is the point.

In Exodus 23:11 God gives some interesting farming advice, but during the seventh year let the land lie unplowed and unused. Then the poor among your people may get food from it, and the wild animals may eat what is left. Do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove.”

I am not a farming expert but with just a little bit of research here is what I discovered. The health of soil used for agricultural production can change dramatically over the years with ongoing use. Crops draw nutrients and minerals out of the soil, they leech some back in as well. Some crops heavily deplete the soil and do not put enough of the other balanced nutrients back in. There are all kinds of different strategies to ensure that a soil doesn’t go bad; crop rotation, artificial fertilization, and letting the land rest or go fallow for some length of time.

The artificial processes work, but not completely and not when the land has been used heavily or substantially depleting crop have been planted. In fact, the best natural mechanism for soil mineral replenishment is to let it lay fallow, let the natural order of things (without the need for excess production) replenish what is needed.

The parallels are blatant. Our lives can become so easily depleted. We can produce season after season after season, but the mineral content of our souls will start deteriorating if we don’t replenish them. There are all different kinds of replenishment strategies and sometimes they work, in some seasons they work. The artificial additives can work for a time. But nothing can replace a time of letting our lives go fallow, even for a short time; no work, no productivity, no output only natural input allowed. Rest, delight, conversation, reading, more rest- soul nutrients.

So why don’t we do this more often? 2 reasons I think.

1. We are afraid of being unproductive. Without going too far into this, my counter is quite practical. We will fulfill this fear by not going fallow because we can never sustain high productivity levels without replenishment.

2. Having a fallow time for our lives actually takes a lot of preparation. Think of the farmer that needs to plan for the right amount of food production before and after the fallow season.

If we want good soil for our lives and our faith to grow in, we will have to let our lives go fallow at different times. Keep an eye on your soul-mineral levels and do the hard work of preparing for a time away from all that drains. Get the babysitter, mark something out on the calendar, and make it happen. Don’t worry a new season of productivity lies just around the corner too!

2 comments

  1. Great post Craig – this is why we try and read “Ordering Your Private World” and “The Rest of God” once a year 🙂

    Nice job taking some time to be fallow!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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