The "Before" Picture
“Before” pictures are often pictures we’ll never share unless we become satisfied with we come to know as “After.” “Before-I-lost-20-pounds” or “before-the-bathroom-makeover” – these snapshots won’t see the light of day if the weight stays on and the tile doesn’t get laid. It makes me wonder how many wonderful “before” pictures find themselves languishing like unopened time capsules, simultaneously memorializing an aspiration and shaming a lack of progress.
Every once in a while, though, someone sends a “Before” picture out into the universe with no “After” attached. Those photographs can take courage, especially when it’s left to the viewers’ imaginations just what the “after” should be. Is this the “me-before-I-lost-weight” or the “me-before-I-finally-learned-to-stop-caring-what-you-think” picture? Sure, “Before” can be a tired, shame-laced declaration of dissatisfaction, but it can also be a wild-eyed, open-ended embrace of an “After” that we are unwilling to leash or domesticate.
All this being said, here’s one of Farm Church’s “Before” pictures. It’s a vacant lot on the corner of Watts and Green Streets in Durham. You can’t tell from this angle, but the ground is full of hard-packed clay, baked in the hot North Carolina sun for years and years. It’s ok for grass, not so much for tomatoes and cucumbers. Like many “Before” pictures, this one foreshadows countless hours of hard work and determination.
Truth be told, these days Farm Church feels like one giant “Before” picture. Our farm is a blank canvass, and we’re six days away from our first worship service. “Before” looms large in our minds and on our to-do lists, as it has for about twenty-one months now.
So we’re at this point in Farm Church’s life when “Before” is about to become “After.” And we want to do two things. First, we want to express deep thanks for everyone who helped us create a more vivid, purposeful “Before” picture. Some of you prayed for us, some gave, some encouraged and cheered. Some challenged and provoked. Some of you worked your networks, some beckoned, some pushed away, and some of you just pushed, pushed, pushed. We are well aware that Farm Church is where it is today because of the collective, prayerful willpower of so many, and we are grateful. We believe that the Holy Spirit has enlightened this communal process in a way that has created a much better “Before” picture than we could have ever created by ourselves. Thank you.
We also want to invite you in the “After.” And we want to be clear. This is not an “After” that’s all figured out. Rather, we hope and pray, it’s a wild-eyed, open-ended, Christ-emboldened, and Spirit-led “After” that will take on a life of its own. And we want YOU to be in the “After” picture. Maybe you’re in Durham or Chapel Hill, or maybe you’re in Louisville or New York. Maybe you’ll worship with us some Sunday soon, or maybe you’ll keep praying from afar and rejoicing with us as images take shape. Wherever you are and however you choose to stay connected to Farm Church, we intend to share great joy with you as the “After” images come into focus.
Much love and thanks to you, the Farm Church family of faith, spread near and far as you are. Thank you for being such an important part of our “Before” and thank you for anticipating our “After” as it finds its way. Please pray for us – for the seeds, for the people, for the land, for the church… And know that we are profoundly grateful for your presence in this wild journey of life and faith.
Ben and Allen