The Cultivation of Hope

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been reflecting on hope through the many events unfolding every day, and as the reality of hope asserts itself more and more through the incredible grace and kindness of a loving God, I begin to ask the question: then how can I have the shadow of hope’s reality always fall on me? Or rather, how can I live in the shadow of hope’s reality?

fields

The beautiful pattern of farmland!

Well, it seems that I have to explore the agriculture of hope! Every farmer plans his planting even before he has started harvesting. This is the wisdom and mystery of the ploughman overtaking the reaper. I need to cultivate hope; plant it wherever I can so that it yields a continuous harvest. Have I been doing that? And how would I continue to do that?

I was reading about an organisation that has a vision of reaching out in whatever capacity their expertise offers to end hunger, and came across the amazing statement in their Rural Compassion section, that they find the state of consistently poor counties in their national zone unacceptable. Unacceptable! That little word and the worldview that comes attendant with it is one of the two sides of the crux of the matter. People who find things unacceptable do things about them because they have a dream of what they should be. And people who have a dream of what should be, try to do something about seeing it become real, and fire up other people about it.

As I think back about anytime I have successfully cultivated hope, it has always been in the context of finding something unacceptable, and then engaging with trying to do something about it, and often the resulting transformation has brought unexpected hope. Or being so much on fire with something exciting or wonderful, that it has resulted in working hard to share that with others, again, often resulting in an influx of hope and succeeding transformation. One is the experience of pain, and the other, the experience of passion; they seem to be the two great tools for a cultivator of hope.

It’s not a coincidence that I’ve always loved farmland and livestock, and I couldn’t resist sharing some of these beautiful images of farms.

lanscape_with_farmland__1829-1834

Landscape with Farmland, 1832 – Theodore Rousseau

Constable, John, 1776-1837; Golding Constable's Kitchen Garden

Golding Constable’s Kitchen Garden – John Constable 1776 – 1837

malham-6939

Yorkshire dales – Malham

wheat-country-saskatchewan_288-286

Canadian wheat fields

hills-and-fields

Farming the dells

Indian villages for slideshow supplied by John Parker

And closer to home, the familiar Indian fields

So, it makes me think of how I am planting in people’s lives, what I am sowing to draw forth hope from hardened ground, how I am ploughing to soften the soil of worldviews and habits that have become unyielding and harmful, and how I can be a channel of God’s great grace towards us hardened human beings.

I had thought of building on this thought with my grade 8 students, looking for new ways to plant ‘hope seeds’, but the pollution in Delhi reached such epic ranges that the Delhi government suddenly declared three days of holidays for all schools of every type. How effective that would be is entirely another story. Which right-minded person would think that young folk would stay cooped up indoors for three entire days?? But I suddenly became free in the mornings for three days, and a quiet voice whispered in my ear that this was a gift of respite and rest from a wise and loving Father, and that it would be good to ‘come away’.

I decided to ‘retreat’ and use the free time to reflect, pray and take God’s counsel in various situations, even as Psalm 126:6 came to mind, with its beautiful poetry in its original form:

He shall walk, and walk and weep,

Bearing the handful of seed:

He shall come, and come with singing,

Bearing his sheaves…

With the unpredictability of life, it makes sense to take counsel with the Great Farmer and Cultivator of our lives to know what to do with the farmland entrusted to our care, so that we may have the joy of an abundant harvest, a sound tilling, and a good sowing.

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