You crown the year with your bounty; your wagon tracks overflow with richness. The pastures of the wilderness overflow, the hills gird themselves with joy, the meadows clothe themselves with flocks, the valleys deck themselves with grain, they shout and sing together for joy. – Psalm 65:11-13 (NRSV)
Some people think the highest expression of God’s presence is the wilderness primeval, innocent of human befoulment. Others claim that one day when God moves to earth full-time, the world will become a great city, with order and harmony and beauty in a built environment that covers the globe.
The psalmist isn’t interested in this sort of either/or, wilderness vs. inner city. They’re not interested in purity; they’re interested in what happens when you get the mixture just right. Here’s how the psalmist says you know when God is present on the earth:
When life springs up even after the machines pass.
When domestic animals are fed, tended, and protected—when they’re pastured—in the wilderness with the wild ones.
When the valleys doll themselves up in wheat and barley.
When the meadows are considered underdressed until they’re draped with flocks of sheep and goats.
For the psalmist, the place of delight where God dwells is that part of the Venn diagram where humans and the rest of the world overlap. Ingenuity and impulse, evolution and breeding, genetic drive and human wisdom, wild exuberance and careful tending. The urgencies of nature and the skill of people intertwining. No dichotomies, no hierarchies. Instead: mixture, balance.
Instead: a garden.
Give us strength for the tending of this garden, O God. Grant us such balance in our living that the earth springs to bloom in our tracks and all the world knows that you dwell here, in our overlap. Amen.
Quinn G. Caldwell is a father, husband, homesteader and preacher living in rural upstate New York. His most recent book is a series of daily reflections for Advent and Christmas called All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas. Learn more about it and find him on Facebook at Quinn G. Caldwell.