I squatted down next to my garden beds, inspecting the soil for the fifth time that week.
Squinting at the surface, I desperately searched for seedlings beginning to burst through the ground. I had been waiting for weeks for the first signs of life and made all the preparations possible to ensure a perpetual harvest. But after weeks of sowing and watering and waiting, it was time for me to accept the truth: my garden had been going strong for too long. It needed to lie fallow.
As I stood there, staring at this depleted soil, I reflected on my depleted soul. We had both been going non-stop since early 2020 without any time to rest or recover. I had pulled it together and pushed through the pandemic, homeschooling, my husband’s job change, my son’s Autism diagnosis, and an extremely demanding ministry position. I had been going strong for too long. Perhaps it was time for me to lie fallow.
Fallowing ground is a gardening practice where soil is left unplanted for a season so it can rest and regenerate. The dictionary definition refers to it as being “unused or unproductive for a time.” The mere idea makes our skin crawl, doesn’t it? We don’t like being unproductive. We don’t like slowing down. Not in this culture. Not in this day and age. We feel like we have to keep going and going and going, non-stop. But we weren’t created for this pace, this pressure. We were designed to slow down, sometimes even coming to a complete stop.
The concept of fallow ground appears in Exodus 23:11. God instructs the Israelites, “During the seventh year let the land lie unplowed and unused.” They were to leave the land unused, uncultivated, and unproductive for an entire year to allow the soil, and themselves, time to recover. This command mimics the rhythm of the Sabbath, setting apart the seventh day as holy unto the Lord. It’s almost as if the Creator of the universe knew that our land, and our souls, needed rest, so He told us to do just that.
Constant productivity depletes soil of its life, vitality, and nutrients. Without seasons of rest, the land simply can’t produce any more fruit — and neither can we. The work and worries of this world daily drain us of our energy and vitality, and if we don’t take a step back, we, like soil, will become increasingly depleted . . . eventually unable to even produce any fruit at all.
After pushing through the last several years and becoming completely and utterly depleted, my garden and I took a much-needed break. The two of us have been sitting, waiting, and wintering for a while now. Still, that doesn’t mean we’ve been stagnant.
When soil lies fallow, there is a lot of unseen activity. Nutrients rise to the surface. The capacity of the soil increases. Microscopic life is restored. To the naked eye, this might look like nothing. And, because it looks like nothing, we think it’s a waste. But God is always at work, even when we can’t see it.
In this season of recovery, God has been doing a deep work in me. Energy is slowly returning. My capacity is steadily increasing. Joy and patience are rising to the surface. On the outside, not much seems to be happening, but internally, I’m coming back to life.
This fallow season has also been a holy one. God is repairing and restoring all my weary, worn-out spaces. Under the surface, something unique and profound is happening — He is turning fallow ground into hallowed ground.
If the last few years have drained and depleted you, if you, too, have been going strong . . . it might be time to lie fallow. This is your permission slip to step way back and slow way down for a season. To make space for God to restore and refresh you, bringing you back to life.
May God set you free from the need to keep going no matter the cost. May He show how to pull back instead of pushing through. May He bless this fallow season by restoring and refreshing your depleted soul. And may you recognize this time — this space — as hallowed, fallow ground.Leave a Comment