Painting by François Millet

Gleaning is another one of those words we don’t use much any more. In contemporary times, it’s most often used in relation to bits of data or information. But its history goes back thousands of years.

My views about the term “gleaning” have had connotations related to poverty or lack. This bias comes from both direct observations and from biblical stories.

In the last 8 years we lived in Idaho, Lynna was the office manager for a large farm operation — primarily potatoes. Fall was harvest time. The owner, Doug, is a generous and kind man who allowed people to pick up the potatoes that the picker machine missed. Word of his generosity was widely known so I remember seeing vehicles, many battered and old, lining up around the edges of the potato fields.

My second influence related to gleaning goes back to the story from Jewish history of Ruth and Boaz (Ruth 2 in the Old Testament if you are curious to read the whole story.) This story was often either referenced as an example of humility (true). Or a story about unworthiness — a common false teaching in Christian fundamentalism.

Why am I writing about such an obscure word? This morning, the word gleaning was on my heart. I don’t know why. But I do know that when some idea or word appears out of seemingly nowhere, I should heed it.

Some thoughts that came to me …

Gleaning is definitely about humility, but not necessarily about poverty or lack.

Gleaning is about thinking big but doing small things.

Gleaning is about getting low to the ground to discover what’s already there.

Gleaning is about not wasting what has already been provided.

Gleaning is about going back over an area to see what was missed.

Gleaning requires patience, focus and dedication. The same things art requires.

Gleaning requires essentialism. You can’t glean while also lugging around sacks of ideas, thoughts and worries.

Gleaning can be done with all five physical senses — as well as the 6th sense of intuition/awareness.

Gleaning creates presence and gratitude.

If your soul whispers to you “You missed something,” consider going back to an area. It could be an area of knowledge, a relationship, inner work. Any place you passed through is a field for gleaning. Get low to the ground. See what’s already there. The missing thing(s) will be small but very important — like a diamond or a potato for a hungry person.

Leave a Reply