Planning vs. Preparing

I got a new Wendell Berry book a few weeks ago. This may be my new favorite poem since it helped me put my finger on something that has been bugging me about futures for years.

Whatever is foreseen in joy
Must be lived out day to day.
Vision held open in the dark
By our ten thousand days of work.
Harvest will fill the barn; for that
The hand must ache, the face must sweat.

And yet no leaf or grain is filled
By work of ours; the field is tilled
And left to grace. That we may reap,
Great work is done while we’re asleep.

When we work well, a Sabbath mood
Rests on our day, and finds it good.

— Wendell Berry, from A Timbered Choir

My vision, what I forsee in joy, indeed must be lived out day to day. Therein is the elusive hinge that connects the futurist side of me with the spiritual side of me. I’ve been seeking the essence of that connection for a while now. It figures that Wendell Berry, the humble farmer, would lead me to it. Farming is all about working for a vision.

On the Engaged Enounter weekends we run I have taken to saying that “We create extraordinary marriages in lots of ordinary ways.” One could say that about any stake one has in one’s future — we create extraordinary futures in lots of ordinary ways. Our hands must ache, our face must sweat.

Work is necessary, but not sufficient. Grace, whether we welcome it or not, factors in. The hubris of the planner comes from thinking that our work is necessary and sufficient to secure our desired future. Not so! We must be more flexible, more detached, more open to Grace.

That is, I think, the distilled difference between planning and preparing that Christian futurists like myself need to keep in mind. If I ever write a book about Catholicism and futures (something I’ve been threatening to do on and off for a while now), Wendell Berry’s poem above will be in the introduction.

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