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We've Got to Get Ourselves Back to the Garden

I watch contentedly from my bay window as the brown-eyed Jersey cow munches lazily on red-top clover planted last year. Her form is framed by green, rolling hills as clouds move swiftly across the blue skies, casting dark shadows against the hillside. The contrast of the light and darker greens in this beautiful setting holds my eye, as I reflect on the many blessings and promises of this good life.

I can almost imagine the sound of the fire crackling and glowing behind me in the fireplace that will be done by the cool fall weather. We had worked many hours to acquire the dry, seasoned wood from our thirty-five acre wood-lot. It will burn brightly in the fieldstone fireplace our friends are helping us build - stones hand-picked from one of our lower fields we had labored to prepare for seed.

Our home is made of logs my husband cut and hauled from the woods with two of our fine draft horses. The house is large and airy, with much light from windows receiving the southern exposure. Though unfinished, it is truly the dream house we had always hoped for. We borrowed only a small amount of money to build our home and spent countless hours working on it, laboring long days to make it strong and lasting, a testimony to our determination, the fruit of a dream realized. We have peace and security and are growing each day to be more self-sufficient from a world we don’t care to identify with.

It came slowly at first, this feeling of everything not being totally right. True, we seemed to be on our way back to the garden, didn’t we? A fine home, good marriage, beautiful land and healthy children. We had escaped the establishment, we thought, yet we knew deep down inside we did not have real peace in our hearts. Our tranquillity was only external and it was becoming clear to us, ever so gradually, that we had no lasting serenity in our souls. The fulfillment of our dream hadn’t brought us to a place of contentment. Our happiness was only superficial; it had no depth. There was still an empty place deep in our beings that longed for something we weren’t sure we could find. We knew there were questions we had since our youth that remained unanswered. Escaping into the hills of Maine to become as self-sufficient as possible hadn’t brought relief to the problems we saw in ourselves or in the world. Even though beautiful and serene, the forests and fields could give no answers. We had tried so hard to not be like our parents and the establishment, but we were beginning to realize we had the same foundational problems, only disguised or altered by an alternative lifestyle.

Ever since I could remember I had always sought to know what my purpose in life was. As a young child I would sit by the ocean and wonder about God and his creation. As a youth growing up in the ’60s, in frustration I had demanded to know, “What is reality?” I questioned why we were on the earth. Was it to help usher in an age of peace? How? Where was God and why was He so distant? My friends and I were rude in our quest for an answer, and rebelled against anything that merely wafted of authority.

Never having taken Christianity seriously, I searched for answers in every avenue of Eastern philosophies. But no matter how long I sat in my dark, incense-filled room and meditated, the feeling of peace quickly wore off and I emerged the same disgruntled teenager. I wanted to be a kind person. My selfishness and quick temper bothered my conscience and I hated the way I treated my parents and friends. I hated the way they treated me. Worthlessness hung over me like a dark cloud. How could anything be different?

I threw myself into the peace movement and labored selflessly day and night. Is this what I was created to do with my life? Could we bring about a new society? Maybe everyone would just wake up one morning with the same song in their heart and say, “Hey, this is crazy! Let’s stop making war and start loving each other!” I thought maybe this was reality. We just needed enough positive vibes to get it rolling.

Years passed. Though disillusioned, I never stopped looking for the answer and my spiritual roots. I tried higher education. Maybe there my mind and soul could be enlightened and I could discover who I was and what it was we were all supposed to be doing here. I was enlightened all right. My rebellion reached new heights and college succeeded in almost smothering my already-stifled conscience. I had a few morals, a few absolutes in my life that I had tenaciously hung on to, but my liberal education finished them off. The few basic truths my parents had taught me were cast to the wind. Higher education gave me no answers, but only more questions. It taught me to question everything, even long-established good things, and to reason away my screaming conscience. Taking on my professors’ philosophies and those of the authors I read, I felt like a small boat tossed about a very confused sea. I was told everything could be reality, things I thought were bad were really good and anything I believed was real. Somehow the little common sense I possessed told me that was ridiculous, and the meaning of life eluded me more than ever.

I tried working within the system as a teacher, but eventually dropped out. I saw so many needs in the children, but was powerless to really help them. I could try to love them, but between the parents undoing what confidence I tried to instill, the bureaucracy working against meeting their real needs, and my own insecurities and uncertainties, I didn’t have much hope of having an impact on their little lives. What answers could I give them?

Alternating between searching for reality and trying to avoid it through drugs and alcohol, my husband and I decided to begin a new life homesteading. For eight or nine years we gave all our energy to our farm, lumbering business, animals and children. We tried to forget the problems in society and the problems we knew were still in us. But having children really gave us a different perspective on life and further exposed ways in us we knew had to change. What answers about life would we give them?

We worked harder, trying to disguise the frustration of knowing there was nothing we could do about anything. A nagging conscience was causing our dream to lose its zeal. I fought the thought that the purpose of life was only to work the land, grow old and some day be buried under the old apple tree... compost to the earth. There had to be more to life than this meaningless death! Many times late at night, when the children were all sleeping, I would stand at the edge of the hill gazing at the dark night and cry. Sometimes I would lie in the grass and sob. All the frustration of my youth would surface as I cried out, “What was I created for? Why can’t I be happy?” I raised my hands toward the star-filled heavens and screamed, “God, if you’re there, speak to me.”

God, in His mercy, did hear me. Over the next few months my husband and I both came to believe there was a God and that He sent His son to the earth to forgive us and give us a good conscience. Was this my answer, the truth I sought? Unfortunately, our excitement soon turned to disappointment as we couldn’t find the church that matched the description of believers we read about in the New Testament. Christianity seemed as plagued with division, strife, and greed as the non-believers or the establishment. We wanted so much to fit in and be happy like all the smiling Christians we saw in church on Sunday. Little did we know that many of them were as miserable as we were, but had concluded that this was the best life had to offer, and after all, they were heaven-bound. It seemed to us that the goal of Christianity was to get people saved so they could go to heaven. (Was everybody else going to hell?) But what about in the meantime? Weren’t his people supposed to be his disciples, doing his will here on earth as in heaven, being a demonstration of God’s love?

Somehow the reality of God’s love and forgiveness escaped me. I tried to muster up good feelings and repeat Bible verses over and over, but I was still left at my kitchen sink, overlooking my lovely woods, with tears streaming down my face. What was wrong with me? Why didn’t I feel God’s love? I thought I had reached the end of the line. If this wasn’t what life was all about, there was no hope. So many people of my generation had gone back to church looking for their spiritual roots. Were the others like us, looking to fulfill a deep desire to be right with God? But why did so many tolerate the disunity and compromise we saw? How could they close their eyes to the closets full of shoes some had while others had none? There had to be a way to be obedient to what we read in the Bible. We believed God had something greater in mind than for His people to be saved for heaven but left to live their own independent, purposeless lives here on earth. Even though we met many sincere believers, the farce of Christian brotherhood was as unreal as some of the New Age philosophies.

In 1979, we met a group of people who had the quality of life we were seeking. They had peace — the peace we had always desired and sought but never obtained. They were a community of people who had a good conscience, loving and being obedient to the One who created them. They had the answer and had found the reason for their existence.

We were skeptical at first. We were of the generation who had experienced free-love communes and the Jesus movement, but we kept coming back to visit. With all of their human failings we saw that they were a people who were actually living the life of what we had read in the Scriptures. Their life together was a living proof that there is a God who desires a people to represent his loving character on the face of the earth. Their unity was living proof that God did send his son, whom we know as Yahshua,* to save us from our selfish motives and desires. Finally we could believe it because we saw a demonstration — proof of the life we had longed for. Yahshua is the one who can change man’s heart! He is the one we must receive to have this new life!

After much thoughtful consideration and many conversations, my husband and I decided to leave our dream in order to join our lives with these people. We decided our hope needed to be in the Messiah and in being a people who were demonstrating his life on the earth.

We understand that the God of heaven is re-gathering His people, the twelve tribes of Israel which have been scattered throughout the world for a long, long time. It is clear to us that God’s people were intended to be a social people. We were never intended to live independently and separate from one another. He has had one intention since He first created us, and he is lovingly and earnestly trying to win our hearts. He is the God of love, peace, and justice. It was never His intention that the earth would become so corrupt or that our hearts would be so distant from His. He is determined that the earth will be restored to the garden-like state it knew when man first was created. He desires a people who will love Him more than their own lives. It is life for a life — we give up ours and He will give us his. This is the only way back to the garden.

He can’t bring restoration to the earth apart from a people who care, a people willing to have their hearts changed, a people willing to admit their need for forgiveness.

Leaving our farm and home was one of the most difficult things we had ever done. But finding our Creator, our Father, and in Him love, purpose, peace, forgiveness, and a good conscience made it all worthwhile. We found the answer. We now know why and for whom we were created. My husband, children, friends, and I are now a part of the most active, passionate, and radical demonstration for justice and peace on the face of the earth. Our Creator’s desire is to raise up communities of people all over the world, living together in unity, dwelling in peace, and loving their God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength and their neighbor as themselves.

There is something in all of us to grope for God. We were created in His image, so instinctively we sense our need for Him. Living together as we do is hard sometimes because we are selfish and have been trained to be independent, but the hope of there being a new earth ał with no more pain, sorrow, war, or hunger — gives us vision to press on. We are being set free to love. Whoever truly desires to see justice established, whoever desires to live for His created purpose, whoever desires a new heart will be a part of this new earth. There is no other way back to the garden.

Our hope is to find others who are seeking a spiritual foundation. If you are one who is searching (whether you are an established middle-class baby-boomer, a New Age devotee living off the land, a dissatisfied Christian, or a teenager unsure of what to do with your life), and you can’t bear to compromise what you truly desire in your heart, please come and see us! Our God is so good and He rewards those who seek Him!

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