When Life is Still in the Midst of a Fallow Season

Before Grace P. Cho and her family left their home in Las Vegas to move back to Southern California, she knew the coming season would be one of fire and wilderness. It was to be a time for healing and sanctifying, for finding her worth and identity in who God made her to be, as a Korean-American woman leader and writer. The most painful parts of that season ended a year ago, and now she’s learning to live in the season that comes after the fire. It’s a joy to welcome Grace to the farm’s front porch today…

guest post by Grace P. Cho

The clouds of smoke have thinned out, and the sky is clear again.

It’s back to the pale blue of a hot summer day, and the sun shines as it did before, unfiltered and bright.

I don’t see them when I look up, but when I look down, black and white ash flit down from the sky and speckle everything around me.

Fire is burning thousands of acres across Southern California right now. They’re calling the one closest to us the “Holy Fire,” an apt name for what it represents for me as I write this. It consumes all that it touches, moving wherever the wind blows, and it leaves behind a land that lies charred and fallow.

There is a stillness that comes after the fire, a period that stretches longer than we’d like with nothing happening on the surface.

I’m sitting in that stillness now, in my own fallow season of life.

I thought I’d be in the middle of spring or summer by now, bursting with vibrant shades of green.

I came out of a wilderness season last year, where I felt like a seed under a winter’s ground, lying cold and dormant, waiting to thaw and die to birth new life.

I assumed it had been winter and so expected spring, choosing cultivate as my word for this year and arming myself with books and plans to grow.

But now I look back and see it was more like God had set a fire to the land, turning me inside out and exposing what needed light and air. It was a sanctifying, all-consuming flame, intentionally set and controlled by His hands of grace but a fire nonetheless.

And what came after was fallowness — a season to rest and reset, to be replenished and renourished.

But I was so used to having my hand at the plow, my knees dirty from the work, that I didn’t know how to do nothing.

I didn’t know how to have room in my life, to hold space and emptiness and be still in the quiet of not being rushed.

I hadn’t learned to rest while in the wilderness season before, so preoccupied with simply making it to the next day.

I became bewildered by the lack of momentum in my life. I didn’t know what to do with my arms and hands. They felt awkward and unsure of themselves. I didn’t know if I should raise them in praise for the rest I was to enjoy or move them at twice the speed to be productive.

But every attempt to start cultivating anything felt like striving, like Adam toiling away at the land after it had been cursed.

But the lack of cultivation in my life wasn’t a curse; it was meant to be a blessing.

Yet I resisted and wanted evidence of labor instead — sore muscles in my body and soul and tangible fruit from it. I wanted God to till the soil in me deeply and quickly. Dig out all the weeds, God! Let everything be upturned so Your work can be done through me!

I wanted to learn and transform and grow in all the ways I needed, as fast as I could learn it.

I wanted to hurry up and know how to rest well so I could be ready for whatever work God had in store for me and for the harvest that was surely to come.

But God was inviting me to watch His ways and learn from Him, to sit and see what He could do out of the ashes left from the fire.

And like a gentle mother, He pried my fingers off the plow. It wasn’t mine to hold anymore.

He whispered to my soul that fallow seasons aren’t meant for hurry. They’re meant to undo the hardwired muscle memory of labor, to reorient our bodies, minds, and souls to the unrushed pace of God. They’re meant to teach us to dance to the unforced rhythms of grace.

Fallow seasons are meant to bring life in a way it hadn’t been before. They aren’t seasons of death though it may look like it on the surface for a moment. Instead, they are the transition period between death and new life, between ashes and beauty.

The transition is slow. When all the sanctifying of my character and the healing of old wounds in the wilderness season didn’t magically turn into blossoms, my impatient self was confused. I expected it to be more like a time-lapsed video where a seed sprouts into a flower in just a couple of minutes.

But God has the clarity of seeing things from eternity to eternity. He is not bound by time, and so He is patient.

He is never annoyed with the slowness of transformation but always delights in the intricate care of redeeming burned things.

And He is not done with us in the midst of fallow seasons.

We are the land being cultivated. We are the farmer, sitting and watching His grace do its work.

We are the wildflowers that will bloom. We are all these things, but we are not the sower.

God is the one who does the work of cultivation. 

He is the Good Sower — not of plants grown in perfect rows or roses that grow in neat flower beds.

He is a Sower who flings the seeds of wildflowers into the field, cares for them, and delights in their unpredictable beauty.

He is the one who invites us to rest as He does the work and to wait in peaceful expectation for what’s to come.

He burns away the old with fire and cultivates the land for the new things He is doing in our lives, allowing light and water to reach down deep, awakening and breaking open the seeds that have laid dormant before to thrive in the soil He has made good.

What will come is a mystery, and we gain nothing when we rush into seasons we’re not ready for.

So sit with Him, rest with Him, watch Him do His good and holy work while the land still lies fallow.

 

Grace P. Cho is a writer and editorial manager at (in)courage. She has written for The Mudroom, GraceTable, Inheritance Magazine, and is also on the writing team at (in)courage. In the middle of her years in church ministry, she sensed God moving her toward writing, to use her words to lead others in a broader context. Aside from her work online, she does this through speaking, discipleship, and one-on-one mentorship. She also uses her editing skills to help authors on book projects and entrepreneurs with their websites.

Grace and her husband James live in Southern California with their two children, Autumn and Peter. You can find her at www.gracepcho.com and on Instagram (@gracepcho).

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