A farmer ploughing a field and looking back. Photo courtesy of flicker via creativecommons.org.
Looking back. We all do it from time to time. Sometimes we look back on fond memories, and sometimes memories that aren’t so fond. Many times we get so focused on the past—past hang ups, mistakes, relationships—that we are held prisoner to it, unable to plow ahead into the fertile ground of our future. A very wise Teacher once said:
“No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” -Luke 9:62 NIV
Now, the plow’s back in Jesus’ day were steered by hand while oxen, horses, or mules pulled them. Dictionary.com defines a plow as “an agricultural implement used for cutting, lifting, turning over, and partly pulverizing soil.” The purpose of plowing is to turn over the soil so that fresh nutrients are brought to the surface, and the soil is fresh and fertile for the planting of seeds.
Plowing also buries weeds, weed and crop seeds, along with any remains from previous crops literally burying the old and “raising” the new. What a wonderful concept! Okay, you may be asking, “But what does this have to do with serving God?” Well my friend, I am glad you asked! 😉
When we accept Christ into our hearts as our Lord and Savior we become born again, receiving the Holy Spirit. We then get baptized, making an outward expression of an inward change, being raised out of the water as Christ was raised from the grave. Our sins are forgiven, and we are made new. But then there is that plow . . .
We put our hand to the plow, pushing forward, serving God and others, and growing in faith, but then we turn around to look back at the past. Let me clarify. Looking back is okay if you are doing so in a way that says, “Thank God I am not where I used to be.” I look back on my past a lot using what I have been through as my testimony and that’s okay. It’s when we start wishing we were back in that place rather than where we currently are that poses a problem. Look at Lot’s wife in Genesis 19:26. God said not to look back on Sodom and Gomorrah, but as she and her family were running away, she looked back and became a pillar of salt.
In the verses proceeding Luke 9:62, Jesus asked a man to follow him, and the man said that he wanted to bury his father first. He didn’t want to move forward with Jesus because he couldn’t let go of his past. We don’t know whether the man’s father was actually dead or not. Maybe he was, or maybe it was an excuse. What we do know is that Jesus didn’t live much longer after that, and the man missed his opportunity to follow him.
“We would rather have familiarity than the uncomfortableness of change.”
Ploughing Match by Bob Turner, courtesy of flicker via creativecommons.org
Another man said that he would follow Jesus but wanted to go back to his family first to tell them goodbye. That is when Jesus made reference to the plow. Jesus wants complete dedication, not heartfelt commitment. We are called to take up his cross, abandoning anything that may distract us from following him. This means we can’t selectively follow him by choosing which of his ideas we want to follow. We must put our hands to the plow and press on full force, no matter how difficult the journey.
I have a habit of laying things down at the cross and then picking them right back up. We get “comfortable” with our problems. They are familiar to us, and although often painful, we clutch them tightly because we would rather have familiarity than the uncomfortableness of change. But look at the butterfly! It goes through a process of change that I imagine can’t be too comfortable, yet in the end it comes out a beautiful creation completely transformed. We have to get sick enough of where we are and habits we have formed to take the plunge into greater depths. We don’t have to remain in bondage to fear, anxiety, depression, rejection, etc., we just have to put our hand to that plow, turn over the old soil, and keep on moving. When we do, we will reap a harvest like no other! 😀
Have you had trouble “plowing ahead?” I’d love to hear from you!