There is a scene at the beginning of the movie, “Far and Away”, when a young Irishman named Joseph is leaning over his father’s death bed, (actually, the old duffer was laid out on a table) and after dying once, then coming back to life for a brief moment, the father exchanges some words with his son about land. The father laments that all dreams eventually end up in the bottom of an ale glass, but Joseph will have none of that. He means to own land one day, and tells his father so. The poor boy will not accept his indentured servitude and that his chances of taking land from the nobles would be, in his father’s words, a miracle.
“I’ll work my own land someday.”
“Without land, a man is nothing.”
“Yeah, that’s it.”
“Land is a man’s very own soul.”
So poetic. So Irish. Makes for a good movie scene.
Then God speaks.
Desiring land, one’s own piece of dirt, is hard wired into the human heart, the human soul.
We are made from the land. Under the breath and holy hands of the Almighty the dirt yields up a man.
God places him in the land and on the land. A garden place it is, a place to cultivate and to keep.
But the man forgets who he is and what he is made of, so he takes what is not his to take and he falls.
The land falls with him.
Then God speaks.
To your descendants I have given this land…
A milk and honey place. A place of wheat and barley and vines and figs and pomegranates and oil.
God gives it all back.
He lifts man from the fallen place and He lifts the land, too.
For the upright will live in the land, and the blameless will remain in it…
It is springtime and my hands are in the dirt. I am embarrassed when I meet someone in public because I have forgotten that my nails are ragged with the digging and the dirt won’t give up its place in them no matter how much I bathe my hands in soap and water.
I am a descendant of land keepers.
My grandfather made straight lines in the New Hampshire dirt with his tractor, moist earth clods falling from the tire treads. He lined the perimeter of his house with flower mounds lasting until winter’s frost.
My father walks his land somewhere in the midwest, taking care of the field and the woods, sometimes leaving a pile of firewood for a human forest dweller only God knows is there.
I turn the garden soil because I am keeping it, cultivating it. I don’t care how small it is or that the yield is something I put in a vase.
It is a milk and honey place for me and I think of God mostly when I’m there.
If you are in a dry and weary land, I pray that you will know God makes a way even there. When we seek Him He promises to make an oasis in the desert place. Even the desert land comes under the breath and holy hands of an Almighty God.