There is a difficult tug that exists within my heart.
A pull between my love for the plow and my longing for a backwards glance. There exists a sacred tension between the two because I am cut from a cloth that weaves accordingly. God seeded within my temporal flesh the eternal possibility of a life beyond my flesh. Thus, the rub.
Flesh verses forever … housed together within each one of us, requiring that we understand and overcome the strain that exists between these extremes. We were made the plow; yet, we are prone to a backwards glance. And somewhere in the midst of our understanding the difference, we must overcome our fleshly tendencies in order to undertake the higher cause of Jesus Christ. If we refuse the learning, we are as useless before God and in his service for the greater good of humanity.
I felt this simply and yet profoundly in the past week. There is a new song out on country music radio, and I liked it the first time I heard it. It had a good beat … a lively rhythm and a catchy chorus that awakened my interest. But after a first listen and further examination of its questionable lyrics, I realized that it was not a song I should further indulge. Not because I am bound by legalism, but rather because it tugged at something deeper within me.
A backwards glance.
A life I no longer live, and yet a life that I can quickly retreat to in a moment’s pause. Sometimes through a song. Sometimes through all manner of triggers that call for my retreat. And because I am not in the business of retreating from God’s calling upon my life, I must refuse the invitation.
Because God’s Spirit lives inside of me, it is within my power to do so; but when I neglect his promptings, when I choose a backwards glance over the plow that grips my heart, I lose a portion of the holy ground that is mine to claim and mine to plow for God’s kingdom agenda.
A cluttered mind filled with a backwards longing is a mind unfit to move on with God.
He said as much to a few well-meaning pilgrims who intended to join his cause, but who refused his calling (see Luke 9:57-62). At first glance, it is a difficult teaching to understand. Jesus’ words seem harsh; after all, these men simply wanted to bring some closure to their past before moving on with Jesus in their present.
He calls into question their motives and their usability within his kingdom purposes:
“‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.’” (Luke 9:62).
What a reproof! What a rejection. It is warranted, but the reason for Christ’s stern rebuke is often missed, simply because we are painfully focused on the severity of Jesus’ response.
The culprit for his reprimand? Four seemingly harmless words spoken by both men, yet when placed in context alongside the Savior’s sacred call for discipleship, words that became hugely complex and worthy of a harsh reproach.
“‘Lord, first let me… ’”
“Lord” and “first let me” is an unholy coupling. My firsts and the Lord’s firsts are incompatible. We cannot claim him as Lord and still harbor a “me first” within. We can try. In fact, we have mastered the vernacular. We simply cloak our “me first’s” in less obvious and less offensive terms.
We don’t mean to; not always. But on each occasion when our minds trade in the plow of God’s current for the pull of a backwards glance, we offend the cause of the cross for which he died. We are limited in our holy usefulness because our “first let me” takes the lead. And when it comes to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the seeding of it within the soil given to us for the plowing, his leading takes a back seat to no one. No thing. No memory. No backwards glance. No time for another agenda other than the one that he has entrusted to us.
If we choose to bury his agenda in favor of our “me first”—our backwards glance that refuses the pulse of the present—then we need to understand that little, if any, kingdom influence will be allowed our flesh. Period.
When God calls, God requires a response. And if our response is anything but a resounding “yes” to the present and to our beyond, we will remain shackled to a past that breathes without hope and within the boundaries of an irreversible history that has already been written.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be stuck in my history. I want to be present with my Jesus in my now. I want to move forward with him. With my hand to his plow and his earth beneath my feet. With his seed in my heart and his yoke around my neck. I want to walk the fields of harvest with Jesus, sowing and watering and gleaning to the outer edges of my faith.
I don’t want to miss his ahead because of the “me first” of my behind. Honestly, I can’t think of one moment in my yesterdays that is worthy of sacrificing one moment of my now with Jesus. Can you? If you can, may I be so bold to suggest that you are going nowhere with God?
You’re stuck, and being stuck isn’t an excuse for staying as you are. You are a sinner saved by grace who is given the high and holy privilege of moving onto perfection. It is within your power to do so because, if you are a Christian, you house the presence and the living power of God’s Spirit within.
There is no mystery to your moving forward. It simply requires your refusal to longingly entreat the pull of a backwards glance. Backwards glances come in all shapes and sizes. Maybe through something as simple as a song, a book, or a television show. Maybe through something as complex as a relationship, an addiction, or a sin that entreats your imagination and pulls hard at your will. Regardless of the trigger, if allowed safe sanctuary within your mind and your heart, its voice will be heard.
It sounds a lot like me first. It sounds a lot like retreat. It sounds a lot like refusal.
And whenever we refuse God’s invitation to follow, his voice will be heard. It is louder than ours and cuts with more clarified precision than any justification we can offer in the matter. And that, my friends, sounds a whole lot like holy rejection—a painful contrast to what I truly and deeply desire.
I want to be fit for kingdom purpose. I want the privilege of sacred participation in the higher cause of Jesus Christ. I want the same for you. Thus, I pray…
Purify and cleanse our minds, Lord. Purge and eradicate the “me first’s” from our wills. Let your plow be our portion and the pull of a backwards glance be our refusal. Fill us to the outer edges of our flesh with the wild and untamed overflow of your Spirit. You are our future. You are our forever. Keep our eyes fixed accordingly. Amen.
Copyright © October 2008 – Elaine Olsen. All rights reserved.