They Who Sow in Tears: Psalm 126


“They who sow in tears
Shall reap with songs of joy.
Though he goes along weeping,
Carrying the seed bag,
He shall come back with songs of joy,
Carrying his sheaves”

His name was Kyle and he was a farmer. We seldom spoke when I passed his home but he always waved, then returned to sowing seeds in fields of dark loam. As spring evolved into summer, cucumbers peeked out from beneath dark green leaves. On the porch of Kyle’s weather beaten white clapboard house, wicker rocking chairs swayed in a gentle breeze, but Kyle seldom rested.

Then, one year, Kyle was not tending his garden. Weeds played havoc with the land, the wicker chairs peeled and the green front door, painted yearly, faded in the summer sun. At night a faint light flickered from behind drawn calico curtains but I never saw Kyle. Sowing. Carrying a seed bag. Harvesting sheaves.

Tom, who lives in a cottage on a nearby country lane, told me what had happened: “Nothing worse than losing a child. Nothing worse.” Tom’s voice dropped to a whisper. “Kyle’s son–a fine young man–out fishing. A sudden storm. Lightning hit the metal rowboat. The boy was gone. The boy who Kyle and his wife had struggled to have. Kyle hasn’t recovered from the loss. At least not yet.”

The seasons passed. A man bereft. A plot of land barren. Death had destroyed a family. Not even the waters of Brant Lake, lapping the shoreline where Kyle lived, could wash clean the sorrow. Not even the waters.

Then, one summer, three or four years after the tragedy, I again saw Kyle scattering seeds in a field newly cleared of weeds. Rich soil opened its pores as he walked slowly along the rows.

Kyle was an elderly man. Bent over. From planting? From age? From the burden of loss? Perhaps a combination, for life never bestows single answers on those of us who question why. That’s the way life is. Yet we never tire of asking, of seeking answers to mysteries we cannot fathom.

I waved and Kyle looked up. There was a sad smile on his weathered face and tears coursed along rivulets etched by time. He acknowledged my words of condolence then returned to cultivating the land. And himself.

In early August he picked the first of a harvest nurtured by refreshing drops of rain, the salt of tears. And I remembered the words of the Psalmist:

“He who sows in tears
Shall come back with songs of joy
Carrying his sheaves”

Yes, that ancient Psalmist–perhaps the biblical David–knew that our lives are cyclical. One chapter ends but another will begin. Over time. Over time. If we venture out on a new path. Kyle was not able to sing the songs of joy but he was carrying the sheaves of rebirth. Sheaves of a new season carrying him back to life .

One seed at a time.

Brant Lake

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