Don't look back with regret Look forward with hopeVisiting my grandparents in Tennessee was one of my favorite things do, all the way through my high school years.  My grandparents were cotton farmers; they raised their own cattle and grew their own gardens.  As a young boy, I remember helping Papa, my grandfather, work around his farm.  I learned to chop cotton, slop hogs and weed a garden.

One summer many years ago, Papa went to the garden to plow a section in which he was going to plant some sort of vegetable.  First, he went to “the little red house” where he kept much of his gardening equipment and tools.  There, he got out his gasoline powered tiller, filled it with gas and was just getting ready to yank the start cord when I spoke up.

Eager as I was, I quickly asked Papa if I could till the new spot.  Now, Papa was a gracious man who was always willing to let his naive grandchildren try something new, even if it was as his expense.  So he allowed me my try.  But, before I got my hands on the tiller to push it through the garden gate, Papa said, “Whatever you do, don’t look back as you plow!  You’ll end up losing sight of where you’re going.”

“Don’t worry!” I said.  “I can handle it.”

But I was wrong. 

You know how it is: if you tell a child not to do something, you can rest assured he or she will.

About half way down the lane I was tilling, I decided to look back to see how I had done.  And, just as Papa said, I lost sight of where I was going.  The tiller jerked to the right and plowed up a good piece of his strawberry patch…and didn’t stop until it ran into the fence, dragging me with it.  I was ashamed, embarrassed and scared.  What would Papa do?

That little incident brings to mind the words of Jesus, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). 

When we are about the work of doing what God has called us to do, you and I cannot afford to allow the past to dictate to us where we go or what we do.  Constantly looking back makes us lose sight of what lies ahead.  Dwelling on what was forces us to forget what is yet to be.  Tomorrow’s potential is always greater than yesterday’s accomplishments.

But what if we do look back?  What will God do? 

I think God will react the same way Papa did on that day I plowed up his strawberries: God will not become angry.  Rather, God will put his arm around our shoulders, put our hands back on the plow and say, “Here you go; let’s try that again.”