Lying fallow

It seems a supreme act of trust in God to wait and do nothing, and a sort of act of worship to lie fallow before him like a field in winter.

Janet Erskine Stuart

Leaving a field fallow is part of traditional farming practice, whereby land is ploughed and harrowed, but then left unsown for a year or more. Whilst fallow the soil is able to rest, and to store up moisture and nutrients for itself, without expending them on producing crops. What can look like barrenness is really a restoration of fertility; land which appears empty is in reality full, and what might seem wasteful is a practice born of centuries of wisdom and prudence. It is a reminder to us, too, in a world driven by productivity and busyness, that seemingly unproductive rest, or waiting trustfully on God, can be filled with replenishment and restoration.

And it is, of course, an excellent metaphor for time spent in the dark, faith-filled silence of apparently empty prayer...

And then the other day, thanks to @ClerkofOxford on Twitter, I discovered that in Old English 'fallowing' means to turn yellow-gold. In Anglo-Saxon poetry, said the tweet, fallow is the golden-brown shade of fire, linden shields, bay horses and autumn leaves. They fallow then they fall. A bit of googling revealed that, though they have become identical words, both fallows originally derive from different roots, as befits their different meanings: one speaks to us of dull grey earth, unused and undeveloped, the other of fire and life and burnished gold. And yes, autumn leaves are dying, lying crisp and curling in their fallow shades at our feet - but definitely, for as long as possible, going out in a blaze of glory!

But maybe they're not so different: because isn't there a quiet glory and a slow, simmering fire in the supreme act of trust which enables us to lie fallow, empty and waiting, before the God who comes to fill and replenish us with his life and grace...?