ian-knauer-tillingVisiting my grandparents in Tennessee was one of my favorite things to do when I was growing up.  Mama and Papa owned a farm on which Papa grew cotton and corn.  He also raised his own cattle (and hand-fed them every day) and chickens.  He and Mama tended two huge gardens each day as well.  As a young boy, I often helped them work in the gardens: picking, chopping, weeding.

One summer, Papa went to the garden to plow under a section.  First, he went to the “little red house,” an old sharecroppers house he bought when he purchased the farm.  There, he kept most of his gardening and lawn-care tools and equipment.  At the little red house, Papa pulled our his rotor tiller and filled it with gas.

Eager as I was, I quickly asked Papa if I could till up the section of garden.  Now, Papa was always a gracious man, willing to let his grand kids try just about anything – even at his expense.  So, he allowed me my try.  But, before I could get the tiller pushed through the garden gate, Papa said, “Whatever you do, don’t look back.  You’ll lose sight of where you’re goin’.”

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

I was wrong.

You know how it is.  You tell a child not to do something and you can rest assured it will be tried anyway!

About halfway down the the lane I was tilling, I decided to look back and see how I was doing.  And, just as Papa said, I lost sight of where I was going.  The tiller jerked hard to the left and I plowed up a good section of Papa’s prized strawberry patch.  The only thing that stopped the tiller – and me – was the fence that separated the hog lot from the garden.

I was ashamed of myself.  Embarrassed.  Frightened.  What would Papa do?

Jesus said, “No one who puts hand to plow and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).  When we are about the work of building up the Kingdom, you and I cannot afford to let the past dictate to us where we shall go and what we shall do.  Constantly looking back makes us lose sight of what lies ahead.  Dwelling on what was causes us to forget what is yet to come. Tomorrow’s potential is always greater than yesterday’s accomplishments.

But what if we do look back?  What will God do?  I am convinced God will respond the same way Papa did that day I plowed up his strawberries: he will not become angry when he sees our sorrow.  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.”