A dear friend made me a cross stitch saying and had it framed and sent to me a number of years ago. She did it at a time when I was struggling to move out of a deep well of grief and despair I had found myself in after a particularly hard season in life. I was there, treading water; because I could not move past the pain of an event that broke a fragile trust and shattered my paper-thin heart. The words and verse lovingly chosen in hopes of moving me out of the stooper and back into the ebb and flow of life; said this:
“Life can only be understood by looking backward, but it must be lived by looking forward“.
There was no author’s name attached but she had attached a verse to it from Luke and at the time I didn’t look it up I just placed it on my window sill in my bathroom and let it set. Day after day I read it over and over. I showered, groomed and other bath-roomy things but never really gave it much thought. Until one day I picked it up and studied it. I pondered the words lovingly stitched and wondered if the scripture matched the saying and went to investigate. I found the saying is actually from a philosopher named Soren Kierkegaard and that the scripture Luke 9:62 says:
62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God“.
I thought to my self; what in the world does this have to do with the other? I mean seriously, I’m not a farmer and I’m certainly not going to go out and plow any rows anytime soon! So I dug a little deeper into the word. Several verses before this particular one, Jesus was talking to some people about becoming his disciple; following him and the cost associated with it. The verse right before 62 has a guy like “Dude I want to follow you but first can I say adios to my family?” (politely paraphrased by me). Luke 9:62 is his response.
After spending more time in the word, looking up references to other scripture and praying God revealed this to me. Back in the day a farmer had a horse which was used to pull a plow in order to ready the field for planting. He would rig up the horse, set the plow and begin to move forward with his hands on the handle of the plow and the reins of the horse over his shoulder. Together they moved as one, only stopping when a rock or root tripped them up and progress was halted to remove the offending item. The work was tedious and backbreaking but manageable with the help of the horse to pull and the farmer to steer and watch for things that might get in the way. The farmer couldn’t – no didn’t – dare look back for fear of hitting something and sending the team flying or worse breaking the plow and ending his planting season too soon. He trusted they were making progress, straight rows and getting work done because he could see it once they turned the corner and began another row. From there he could check his work, adjust the row and keep moving forward thereby finishing the work on the field readying it for planting.
During this difficult season I had taken my eyes off of my Heavenly Father and allowed the issues of the painful event to trip me up. The rocks and roots of it all littered the field of my heart impeding progress; the progress of the Holy Spirit in healing me. The progress of Him teaching me to trust again, love again, live again. Instead, I began to look back as I treaded water, unsure what to do, where to go or maybe just how to go forward. If I had kept this momentum going my plow would have eventually broke from the constant banging against the roots and rocks and I then would not be able to complete the kingdom work God had assigned to me.
Thankfully, God does not leave us to live out this thing called life alone. He gives us scripture to sustain us. Songs to bring to Him in worship or soothe our wounded heart. He gives us the Holy Spirit to guide us. And sometimes he brings friends and others along side us to help because they have first hand knowledge of how to navigate a particular season they have just finished or because they have a word from the Lord that will lift us up to steady our stance so we can keep moving forward. So, instead of standing still in my grief and despair I fixed my eyes on the author and finisher of my faith, I set my plow deep into the word of God and threw the reins of the Holy Spirit over my shoulder. I grabbed the handle of the plow and yelled, “Yee Aw. Let’s Go!”