The command of God sounds comprehensive because it is: “with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind.” But that does not make it "too hard" or "too far away.” We must remember that “your” really means your. We often listen as if Scripture is speaking to a different person, an ideal person I should be someday. According to Deuteronomy, the word of God is not "above and beyond.” It is here, “in your mouth and in your heart.” It requires the whole you, but not a different you.
When the psalmist asks for the word and ways of the Lord, he receives them as he is: “Gracious and upright is the Lord / therefore he teaches sinners in his way. / He guides the humble in doing right / and teaches the way to the lowly.” We cannot start from anywhere but here.
What need to be faithful is always already here in whatever labor and neighbor is before us. In Jesus’ parable, what is essential is "passed by” by holy men who had their sights set on more important things. Only the Samaritan “came near.” Whether in ambition or anxiety, we have a tendency to live at a distance from life, preoccupied with “shoulds” and hypotheticals. But growth begins with being planted. We have to be willing to walk with two feet on the ground and two eyes open to whatever is actually in front of us.
And in the end only such down-to-earth obedience can truly taste enjoy the “fruit of your body…the fruit of your livestock…the fruit of your soil.” When anxiety and ambition steal my attention, there is one poem by Wendell Berry that often calls me back to the promised abundance beneath my feet.
Horseback on Sunday morning,
harvest over, we taste persimmon
and wild grape, sharp sweet
of summer's end. In time's maze
over fall fields, we name names
that rest on graves. We open
a persimmon seed to find the tree
that stands in promise,
pale, in the seed's marrow.
Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes. Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here. And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear. What we need is here.