Neighborhood Hands to the Plow
Imagine that our Family Support Center on College St. is a plow. Imagine that the neighborhoods around it are fertile fields. Now picture neighbors noticing the plow, thinking that just maybe, with the plow enabling them, there might be a way for their "crops" (families) to grow.
Imagine that some of the neighbors take turns pushing the plow. When one gets tired, another says, “I’ll push awhile…you dig out the rocks.” And year after year, more fields get plowed…and planted…and seedlings grow…and harvests come, with celebrations that make the neighbors glad to keep sharing the simple plow.
Somehow the plow seems to light their imaginations with hope, for tackling one more field.
Why the picture of a “plow”? The ancient words of the prophet Micah graphically describe the hard work entailed in choosing peace, rather than rashly reacting in destructive ways that kill relationships, families, marriages, and lives. “And they will beat their swords into plowshares…and never again will they train for war” (Micah 4:3). In other words, “Been there, done that…never again…from now on we’ll work to grow life”.
All around us we see the damage done from years of destructive ways. Every family has felt threatened and “picked up a sword” at times. We’ve spread gossip, spoken against a friend, killed someone’s good name, mistreated someone who is different from us. Or sometimes, in our own families, we’ve threatened each other. We’ve stopped nurturing a marriage, pushed around a wife or sibling, treated a child carelessly, walked out on a pregnancy, thrown in the towel on the work a family takes, and stopped loving. On and on it goes…violence perpetuating more violence.
When we've recklessly swung around "a sword", people get hurt, ears get lopped off, and we create enemies. We sleep with one eye open, always ready to swing our sword again. Unloving ways turn into cycles that affect whole generations.
But how do we break those cycles? What do we do with the anger that hurtful experiences leave us with? What might it look like to "beat swords into plows"? At Hope House we've heard countless parents relate heartbreaking stories of things their families have been through. The ones who seem to have the most energy are letting God turn their hurts into strengths. They yield their bitterness to God, and He turns that sword into a powerful plow that can tackle any hard ground.
Grabbing a sword is always easier than handling a plow. A plow means work! It promises sweat, long hours, blisters, aching backs…with little initially accomplished but preparation for more work…planting, watering, fertilizing, harvesting…and then, finally the reward, the taste of the fruit. But once you've tasted some good fruit, you know the work is worth it.
Hope House is just a plow. Over the years, we’ve watched many discouraged “farmers” notice it. They get hope. Then before long, their hands eagerly grab hold of it, needing something tangible to hold, to motivate them towards the choice to sweat…to labor for the sake of their child, family, education, health, their life within this community. That is a common harvest-dream; a peaceful, safe, energizing place to grow. Well it’s happening, right here.
Together we are putting hands to the plow. One thing we tackle together is the hard soil of poverty. Together we creatively dig into limited resources, turning over the land to discover rich nutrients still waiting to be used. We at Hope House model, “use and share what you have in your hand,” because that’s when you find it multiplied.
Together, we are putting hands to the plow, to see peace sprout in troubled families, among feuding neighbors, amidst diverse people-groups, in place of racial tension, in spite of misunderstood faiths. We are savoring the taste of God's peace when it grows, and understanding that cultivating the fields for peace is what identifies us as belonging to Him. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9).
So as you glimpse our peace-cultivating efforts, remember in your neighborhood, and on your street, to “seek peace and pursue it” (Psalms 34:14). “Seek” and “pursue” are “action” words. Keep plowing. Peace making is what God’s people do.
©2013, Bruce & Jan Willson