New Thought Editorials > Fields White to Harvest


Winter 2013

Fields White to Harvest

A lot of the northern hemisphere is white with snow and the news is full of this or that weather catastrophe, so why talk of harvest? The line comes from John 4:35 and is the words of Jesus. He had just had his famous visit with the woman of Samaria, and his disciples had just come back from town with groceries, fussing at him because they thought he had had nothing to eat. He replied, "I have meat ye know not of", and they took him literally, wondering who had brought him a snack. Then he explained, "My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work. Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? Behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest." This kind of cryptic reply is classic Jesus, who habitually kicked the discussion up a notch for teaching purposes. So what’s really going on here?

Anybody can be a fair-weather sailor, never leaving port unless the winds are from the perfect direction. There is nothing wrong with taking advantage of blessings. But if nothing happened until conditions were perfect, we’d still be living in caves. God loves all his children, but his extra-special blessings fall on the ones who are willing to "stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit; / It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit." King David was racing from one cave to another, hiding from his predecessor, Saul, who was out to kill him for no good reason, and then the tide turned. Much of the Bible describes the terrible conditions of people in exile through no fault of their own. God does not send such conditions, and nobody ought to seek them out, even if there is guilt about past misdeeds. You don’t set out in the teeth of the hurricane if you can help it, but you prudently look around for ways to advance in whatever way you can despite hard conditions, trusting that God has your back.

I have said before that New Thought is all about what you say to yourself when things go wrong. The Bible—and New Thought is squarely Bible-based—gives lots of techniques for dealing with hard times, such as "What have you in the house?" That is taking inventory of what resources are still available, which we tend to overlook when we are upset. Jesus in the passage quoted above is giving us another technique, one of the most important in New Thought: the power of visualization.

Televangelist Robert H. Schuller once remarked that any fool could count the seeds in an apple; the trick was to be able to count the apples in a seed. This is "the fields white to harvest", the vision of what can be, if we persevere. We must keep on keeping on despite appearances, making our own internal weather regardless of external conditions.

One of the heroes of the American Civil War was a young college professor named Joshua Chamberlain. Robert Kennedy, Jr. describes him as "a hardworking farmer; a poet and a musician; a linguist, writer, and theologian", not at all a military man, but someone willing to put his life on the line for his country. At age 34 he volunteered for the Union army and was made lieutenant colonel because of his educational background. Loved and respected by his men, he drilled them relentlessly, but things were not going well for the Union by the time they arrived at Gettysburg. His regiment’s job was to defend Little Round Top, and they did so through several attacks, but with high casualties. Exhausted, outnumbered, and out of ammunition, he was told that he must defend that position or the entire Union army was lost. At that desperate moment, he, too, had "meat ye know not of". "Suddenly, the solution occurred to him: since he was too weak to defend, he would attack!" It was the last thing anyone expected: his command, "Fix bayonets!" Before he could shout, "Charge!" his men, thinking that reinforcements had come from somewhere, leaped over the stone walls they were crouching behind and sprinted downhill. The surprise and the momentum caused the exhausted Confederates to break and scatter or surrender. 200 men took 400 captives. A few hours later, wounded himself, he announced to his men that he was going to capture Big Round Top nearby, and drew his sword. Every one of his men grabbed a musket and followed him. They came stealthily in the dark, the enemy thought there were far more of them than there were (how Biblical!), and they captured and fortified Big Round Top, turning the tide of the war. It was Chamberlain who was selected to accept the surrender at Appomattox. His vision had been of a peaceful, prosperous America, and that was what he achieved: returning to his family, becoming governor of Maine, and eventually, president of Bowdoin College.