A Song of Ascents. When the LORD brought back the captivity of Zion, We were like those who dream. 2 Then our mouth was filled with laughter, And our tongue with singing. Then they said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.” 3 The LORD has done great things for us, [And] we are glad. 4 Bring back our captivity, O LORD, As the streams in the South. 5 Those who sow in tears Shall reap in joy. 6 He who continually goes forth weeping, Bearing seed for sowing, Shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, Bringing his sheaves [with him].PSALM 126:1-6
OUR TEARS WATER THE LAND BETWEEN DREAMS
Imagine with me that Farmer Joe is out in the field. He inherited this place from his grandparents who had to abandon it 70 years ago. He’s heard the stories of the ‘good ole days on this farm’ all his life. The men who tell those stories were just boys back then. Uncles, cousins, and family friends who remember it well as a land that brought forth crops in abundance. They are all too old to push a plow, chop the wood, or be of much use in the way of hard labor. However, where their muscles are weak, their minds are sharp, and they remember just how easy it used to be to till the soil and how large the harvests were.
But 70 years of neglect have left this place a wilderness. The ground is hard and rocky. The soil hasn’t been busted loose in seventy years. The fields that once held grain are fallow and overrun by small trees and weeds. The orchards and vineyards that used to be the pride of this land have rotted with blight and vines have overgrown the artifacts that reveal that this place was ever once inhabited. The old barn has been eaten by termites and wild animals have made it their home. It is more than apparent that this place has seen better days. When old farmer Joe came back to this land, it was the worst condition it has ever been. It didn’t fall into disrepair by neglect, but from absence. His family has been gone for more than a generation!
But Joe isn’t there to wail and bemoan the better days, He has a vision. He’s heard the stories of the good ole days and he longs for even better, fuller days ahead, but it’s going to take a long time to get there. There are too many chores to do. And chores that used to be easy are difficult, painful, and time consuming these days. It’s not a matter of days before this place reaches its former glory, it’s a matter of years, maybe even decades.
So he goes out, hitches up the mule and gets to work. The ground is hard, it doesn’t move easy. He works each day in a matter of inches and yards not acres as his ancestors had. His progress on the rows comes with so much hurt and pain. He is frustrated, his muscles ache with an agony of toil and despair, his emotions boil into tears that pour hot and heavy down his face.
As his tear ducts release the tears as he prays. He prays for God to move. He prays for God to restore what was lost. He holds on to a hope of what the future holds. He dreams of a different time. A time that all of this sowing and crying will produce a harvest. These seeds that will bring forth joy are sown in the rain of his pain, agony, frustration, worry, and hope.
This Psalm resonated with me in many ways today. I often hear about the good ole days. All the dreams about the abundance of years past is often prone to a selective memory (which I understand, who wants to hold on to the bad memories?). Sometimes we unintentionally lump twenty successful years into one year and multiply it back by twenty to remember what life was like. We share stories that were 20 years in the making like it all just sort of happened.
For those brave enough to plow the fields of today, there is often a burden of labor that is doubly intense because the ground has changed and you have the dream given to you by people who have unintentionally been making apples to oranges comparisons. The fields have been fallow, not for neglect, but that the culture has changed. (While we are using agricultural analogies, the top soil of gospel in culture has eroded.) The average person in the community has less gospel knowledge and fluency than any generation before. In some sense it is harder to work the fields today than it used to be. (I’ve seen that in 20 years of ministry).
But the truth or myth of how things used to be doesn’t accomplish any of the actual work today. Hard ground or soft, the fields need plowing, the seed needs planting. If there will ever be a harvest again on this ground, the backbreaking work of sowing must take place. The new vision and dream arises about what will the Lord produce through the seeds that are going out today! Seeds sown in hard times watered by the tears of desperate, humble prayers. Those seed will yield fruit in due season and this is the dream we cling to! The dream we hope to be there to see. The dream of what might God do with just a few faithful believers living on vision for Him? A dream that pictures a brighter tomorrow for all the adversity we face today! A dream founded on the past but with real vision into the future. What keeps a tired farmer/pastor in the field broadcasting seed? The HOPE of and KNOWLEDGE that our best days are still ahead of us!
As I reflect on where we are in our cultural moment, I think it is easy for some of us to wonder why the Lord don’t move in our lives like he did back in the good ole days? We can often look back and see that He hasn’t changed, but somewhere along the way, we have. We stopped showing up to pray. We stopped being faithful in our attendance. We stopped reading our bibles. If indeed we stopped doing the things we did when He was working miracles among us, is it any wonder we see less of Him today?
The Apostle John tells us of a church who had lost their love for Jesus to repent and go back and do the things they did when they were first in love with Jesus: “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place–unless you repent.” (Revelation 2:5).
Father, Thank you for opportunity to minister your word to others. Thank you for the easy opportunities and thank you for the opportunities that are not easy. I am reminded that you are the LORD of the Harvest. I am just a laborer that you have called to the task. I ask of you that I would be found faithful to the end in all that you have called me to do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
I’m reading and blogging the Psalms Through The Summer. I’d love for you to join me. You can find out a little more here.