Encouraged in an English Meadow

This week before the weather turned, I walked the ancient tracks and paths through the meadows around Barnoldswick. I was struck by a few things I saw. The spiritual burdens I carried, they helped to both illustrate and remedy.


I came across an old barn. When it was built I cannot tell. It might just be Victorian, though as barn architecture didn’t generally alter and get embellished, it could be centuries older. John the Baptist speaks of Christ in Matthew 3:

“His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

Barns were stores for food and produce; the chaff, waste and weeds would not be welcome here. This barn may house hay rather than wheat, but in pastoral agriculture, this is a crop worth storing. Throughout the winter, the hay would be kept dry and safe until needed to feed the livestock. Our souls are safe, kept dry and warm, despite the lashing rains and howling gales without. Those whom Christ saves, He keeps. Don’t be discouraged.


The path itself was ancient, predating the property owner’s rights. At one point it even took me through someone’s garden; though I felt a little awkward passing through, it was my right to be there. That path has been was well-trod many years before that eighteenth-century farmhouse was built. The Narrow Way is sometimes lonely and bereft of good company, but it’s a well-worn path over which many saints’ feet have marched, and many more still shall. Don’t be discouraged.


My own seedlings have fared poorly, yet there are wild flowers which thrive. Foxglove there was in abundance and wild roses giving off their gentle scent. Wild geranium seemed to giggle with joy as I passed, enjoying the sunshine and gentle breeze. Who planted them? Who tends to them? Sometimes our own evangelism bears little fruit, yet God’s Spirit blows where He listeth, drawing souls to Christ with no previous contact or Christian foundation. Don’t be discouraged.


The meadows are gorgeous, yet how many of their beautiful plants would be welcome in a suburban garden? Here grows cow parsley, buttercups and all manner of native meadow grass. ‘Weeds’ at home are delightful in field and pasture. Their added nutrients and flavours will only enhance the hay, as well as adding sparkle to the meadow’s existing loveliness. Don’t despise the common, the disdained, the disparaged. The Lord’s prophets were generally common folk and His apostles rough and ready. His preachers stammer and stutter, His people are seldom noble, nor highly esteemed. Yet they are beautiful to Him. Don’t be discouraged.


I came across an old hawthorn, its age I could not tell. Its trunk was gnarled and hollowed, unlikely to support life, I thought. Yet its leaves were there and its flowers, though now fading, had bloomed. The church of Jesus Christ, though wounded, ragged and in many places rotten, is still His body and witness on the earth. Still she gives forth her fruit, still there is life in her boughs. Don’t be discouraged.


The lambs in the field, once silly and vulnerable, are now becoming sheep. Although less ‘cute’ in our eyes, they are stronger and more likely to survive, for the longer they live and bigger they grow. The change is gradual and cannot be perceived. Their mothers’ milk and farmers’ grass render them vigorous and sturdy. So we Christians started as puny lambs but are growing into strong sheep, surviving winters and summers, snowstorms and heatwaves.

So don’t be discouraged.