Entering the world at the tail end of the Baby Boomers and growing up in the 60s and 70s, my decorative surroundings were very much oriented to flower power, wood paneling, wicker swag lamps, and David Cassidy posters.
Strangely though, my wandering daydreams often took me to a time a hundred years prior when life looked more like this to folks living in my part of the world.
I could not get enough of reading books that took me back to pioneer days and westward expansion. I owned my own copies of the Laura Ingalls Wilder classics, digested them several times each, and checked out other similar books from the library. Certainly I came to realize that Little House on the Prairie did not exactly paint an accurate picture of the suffering imposed on those indigenous souls already occupying the West. That particular topic deeply clouds my childish imaginings of pioneer stories, actually sending them on a more realistic trajectory, but for our purposes here today we will fix our focus elsewhere.
Let’s lean in to the common denominator, the driving force, behind every easterner’s decision to set out on a journey that could likely end badly. We studied about it in school because we were hale and hearty westerners who wanted to know our history, and a proud lot we were. Kids in school did plays focusing on pioneer life. There were monuments all across our states paying homage to these sturdy western heroes. We consistently took our out-of-town company up to the Colorado ghost towns and abandoned mines so they could go home with turquoise from the tourist shops. And we bragged unabashedly about the primary motivation (other than mining) that drove thousands upon thousands of easterners westward.
The common driving force behind the decision to pursue homesteading?
Yes, the hope of it — the basic core element that runs through each of us, and to the western pioneers, what it could mean for a future, for a family, and for a generational legacy.
Hope. In one way or another, it drove people and caused them to undertake hard things. Dangerous trails. The threat of death. Certainly, without a doubt, there were money-hungry folk with dishonorable intentions but today we do not give them the honor of our attention. We remember the ones with downright honest-to-goodness crystal clear dyed-in-the-wool H-O-P-E.
At this moment, I’d like to take an aside to let you know the purpose of this post is to answer a Topic Suggestion sent in by a reader who is facing a family situation in which it is often difficult to see through what’s happening to the possibility of hope. It is my personal prayer that he, his wife, and maybe even you might glean a newfound reason to hang onto that very possibility as you read. I’m one who has learned to do that. Lord, let it be so.
Funny word . . . hope.
I hope you enjoy your trip!
We hope this will be a lesson to you.
The doctor gave them no hope for her recovery.
Hope springs eternal.
The team’s only hope was to kick a field goal.
They moved to Hollywood in hope of finding fame.
The heavy underbrush of the jungle brought an end to any hope of rescue.
Portuguese sailors continued to look for the Cape of Good Hope.
The lighthouse was a beacon of hope to sailors in the storm.
My cousin, Hope, is a sweet girl.
Now I’ve said it and written it so many times it looks funny.
Hope hope hope hope hope hope hope hope hope hope
See what I mean?
However, when it’s absent or hard to envision its presence in our future, life is anything but funny.
Do you remember when your life got complicated? Can you put your finger on it? That time when simplicity turned a corner and started weaving around in circles causing you to question your path, your future, your belief system? It certainly does not happen to everyone in the same way or by the same circumstance, but honestly, there comes a time in everyone’s life when we look around and wonder, “What happened? This is not what I expected.”
And friends, if you are a follower of Christ, this is where we get back to one of the basics of our faith. Our hope.
May I paint a picture for you that has sprung to my own mind over the years that I believe has its roots in my upbringing in the great state of Colorado with all its talk of pioneers and homesteading. The world might call it visualization. I call it the daydreams of a bookish kid and the maturation of continuing to paint the artwork of those daydreams with the hand of the Lord firmly guiding mine. It’s a homestead. My homestead.
There are not extraneous benefits here. It’s a basic life. No utility companies to give comfort or ease. It’s up to our own two hands with the strength of the Lord in us and through us to work the soil. We plow hard ground and tend our crops lest they falter from lack of attention. We guard against the aggressive weeds that seek to choke. We practice thrift so that our cupboards remain stocked and able to feed us and our family. The clothes on our backs need regular repair so that garments do not shred, becoming useless as protection. Safety is paramount on our homestead as we deal with weather, fire, wild animals, and even our fellow man. We must always be on our guard. And when failure comes — oh it will come — we get back behind the plow. We continue to plant. We do all the activities and bear all the burdens that homesteading requires BECAUSE we are strengthened and sturdy and called to do that.
But how do we manage to accomplish all this on our homestead without being overcome by fear, dissatisfaction, and discouragement? How are we strengthened and sturdy and called?
The discipline of hope.
Yes, that’s what I said. Discipline.
Hope is a discipline. It is not a feeling.
If we rely on feelings we quickly falter. Feelings are fickle. Let me tell you one reason I know.
Simplicity is long gone in our family. As it is in many. Our children are grown. We have active relationships with all four of of them. This sounds simple. Trust me. It is not. Because I have always preached to them the concept of honoring one another and being careful about how we speak, you will not hear details here. What you will know is that hope abounds.
After a long estrangement from one of our beautiful children, a text came to my phone about a year and a half ago. I know the date on the calendar. Thanks be to God, we are enjoying a renewed relationship and walking the steps of restoration, all the while acknowledging that there are still difficult rows to hoe as we plant the crops and remove the weeds. Our feelings of hope did indeed waver over the years. Our constant, disciplined prayers of hope never did. Hope remained alive — it may have been buried under tumbleweeds, suffered drought and the attacks of those who wished it to die, but I am here to tell you it did not die. And years — years — later we are gleaning a crop of goodness.
So I speak to you who are hanging on to the last thread of hope in your situation. Take heart! A last thread is still a thread. More often than not, hope becomes reality little by little. It appears while we’re sleeping like dew in the morning. It’s a work of art sitting for months, years, on an easel. It’s a toddler’s first steps that eventually strengthen into running a race. It takes time and often a lot of time. The Lord is always at work whether your feelings tell you He is or not. Take heart!
Keep working your Homestead of Hope, dear ones, even and especially when you don’t feel like it. Till the soil and plant good crops. Prepare nourishing spiritual food for you and your family. Keep your home in as simple an order as possible, drying your garments in the breeze, stacking your firewood for winter. Fix your eyes on the eastern sky as you anticipate His return. Pray unceasingly. God is at work around the world and right into your home and heart and in your deepest hopes for loved ones.
I’ve got this song on repeat in my head. Please listen.
The Book of Revelation at the end of the New Testament concludes with an amazing thread of hope if you need one to hang onto at this moment. Throughout the book, John has written prophetic messages regarding the deeply profound and serious topics of God’s sovereignty, Christ’s return, His judgement, and HOPE. Here’s how it ends:
He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.
Revelation 22: 20-21
If that’s not hope, I don’t know what is.