don't look backVisiting my grandparents in Tennessee was one of my favorite things in the world when I was growing up.  Mama and Papa owned a cotton farm and raised their own cattle and hogs, and had two huge  gardens.  As a young boy, I remember helping Papa work around the farm, especially the gardens.  I would help weed and hoe and pick each summer.

One summer many years ago, Papa went to the garden in the early morning, right after breakfast.  He was going to plow under a new section in which he was planning on planting some tomatoes.  First, he went to the “little red house” where he kept much of his gardening equipment and tools.  It was an old share-cropper’s house he bought when he purchased the farm.  It wasn’t much to look at, but it was great for storing things.  There, he got out his rotor tiller, filled it with gas and was pushing it through the garden gate, getting ready to plow.

Eager as I was, I quickly asked Papa if I could till the new spot.  Now, Papa was always a gracious and loving man who was always willing to let his sometime-ignorant grandson try something new – even at his expense.  So, he allowed me my try at tilling.  But, before he positioned the tiller at the head of the stretch to plow, Papa explained to me how to hold the tiller handlebar, how to turn it around to plow back up the row and how to stop it.  Then he yanked on the pull cord to start it.

Just as I was about to engage the tines of the tiller, Papa yelled over the sound of the motor, “One more thing…whatever you do, don’t look back as you plow.  You’ll lose sight of where you’re goin’!”

I yelled back, “Don’t worry!  I can handle it!”

I was wrong.

You know how it…you tell a child not to do something and you can rest assured he or she will try it anyway.  About halfway down the stretch, I decided to look back at how I had done.  Maybe even check for Papa’s approval.  And just as Papa said, I lost sight of where I was going.  The tiller jerked hard to the left and plowed up a good chunk of Papa’s strawberry patch.  And it kept going until it hit the fence that separated the garden from the pig pen.  I shut the tiller off and just stood there.  I was embarrassed.  Ashamed.  Frightened.  What would Papa do?

That little incident brings to mind the words of Jesus: “No one who puts his hands to the plow and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).  When we are about the work God has called us to do, we cannot afford to allow the past to dictate to us where we shall go and what we shall do.  Constantly looking back causes us to lose sight  of what lies ahead.  Dwelling on what was, causes us to overlook what is yet to be.  Tomorrow’s potential is always great than yesterday’s accomplishments.

But what if we do look back as we do our work?  What will God do?  I am convinced that God will respond much the same way Papa did that inglorious day.  He will not become angry when he sees our regret.  Rather, he will put his arm around us, put our hands back on the plow and say, “Here you go.  Let’s try that again.”