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Dear Reader:

Tom Sturch


I owe you an apology. I've overstayed my sabbatical. The one I never cleared with the Editor. The one, which by definition comes “every seven years”, I took five years early. And now I can only fall on my sword, which is my pen, which of course is this keyboard. Mea culpa. I very much desire reunion with you, Dear Reader, in its pain and joy. Yes, pain, salved in confession and return to labors, and joy that is regular mindfulness of you. So by the gravity of guilt and the hope of renewal, I sit to write.

Also, there's this: I couldn't ignore you. You see, I have never met the Editor face to face, but she sends regular reminders, queries as to titles and subjects. Keeping us writers from covering the same ground. Weeding our words. It affords her in my consciousness a similitude with God. She is unseen yet ever-present, remaining actively watchful. This supplies a needed structure to attend the fruitful relationship we share with you. Till, plant, water, repeat. Yet, in confession, I sometimes imagine her as a hard master, a Professor Umbridge. Damn this imagination. I do so want to be free.

And yet, Dear Reader, please accept this apology. I want to come home. I spent my stolen time learning and teaching some unfamiliar material that exceeded my abilities. It was Ellen Davis' Scripture Culture and Agriculture: An Agrarian Reading of the Bible. I had fallen quite fantastically in love with Dr. Davis while listening to Krista Tippett's On Being podcast back in the spring. I imagined myself enraptured in her glorious knowledge and not a little in the adulation of her students. Such is imagined love. All flowers and foolishness.

And so, in the corrective ways of the Tao, the unwarranted sabbatical was generative only first by de-construction whereupon I suffered the humiliation of Dr. Davis' profound erudition, the very depths of her glory, which when accompanied with the constriction of the teaching commitment was akin to a water-boarding. You know, suffering the sensation of dying without the hope of its relief until the thing it wants is extracted. I wanted my Editor back. But there was Dr. Davis, early in the book transmogrified into Mrs. Trunchbull who would regularly hammer-toss me by my naive Amanda Thripp pig-tails. The gallery's understated Good loft! Excellent release! is still ringing in my de-pigged ears.

However, as I continued my study from the rotting humus beneath the field of wild flowers, I was slowly returned to my senses. I discovered a lovely lecture by Dr. Davis on YouTube. I was recommended to similar works for perspective. And soon she emerged substantial and whole in my restored imagination where love was maturing beyond the teacher, beyond the material. In the end the old koan was remembered in me: Hard learning begets soft hearts.

And as for the teaching commitment, I fulfilled it and I failed it. There was no other possible outcome. The book and the task broke me, yet that is what I most treasure as it returns me to you. Dr. Davis offers this consolation:

For us the true measure of our wisdom will never be the grade point average we covet, a degree or rank, the right job, the book accepted by a prestigious press. No, we will be wise when we desire with heart, soul, mind, and strength only the things that God also desires for us—and nothing else compels us, or ever catches our wandering eye.

Praying this note finds you in joy.