Put Your Hand to the Plough and Don’t Look Back!

1 Kgs 19:16b, 19-21 / Gal 5:1, 13-18 / Luke 9:51-62

A high-powered executive was waiting to board an airplane when suddenly, without warning, his flight was canceled. He was furious, so he shoved his way to the head of the ticket line and demanded a first-class seat on the very next flight. The agent explained courteously that they’d be happy to help, but he’d just have to stand in line and wait his turn.

“Young man, do you have any idea who I am?” shouted the man.

The agent looked him up and down carefully, then picked up his microphone and said, “Attention, please. There’s a gentleman at the ticket counter who doesn’t know who he is. If anyone can identify him, please step forward.”

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It’s so easy to forget who we are, and where we’re going. At certain points in our lives, it’s all very clear. The young couple standing at the altar, the priest about to be ordained, the bright young man walking into his first class at law school: They know where they’re going; they know there’ll be a price to pay and they’re ready to pay it. It’s all very clear and very simple.

Then time passes, and the price begins to be paid — and paid, and paid! And the pay-off isn’t as perfect and as consistent at they’d expected. The beautiful baby turns into a difficult teenager; the handsome groom loses his hair and his waistline; and after 10,000 sermons, the spirited preacher ponders the delights of taking the vow of silence!

Doubts and painful questions force their way to the surface: I didn’t know it was going to be like this. Did I make the wrong choice back there? Is this going to go on forever? How do I get out of here?

Jesus understood this part of our human experience very well, this mid-course weariness that tempts us to look backward instead of forward, that blinds us to the new and deeper joys and possibilities that are within our reach here and now, this mid-course weariness that tempts us to give up, abandon our “plough,” and walk away.

To hold to course and go forward without looking back involves letting go of many things — some of them very fine — but things we no longer need. That letting go can hurt, but it can make room for something more, something better. It can allow us the space to grow into entirely new ways of living and loving, and to do that right here inside our vocations as spouses, parents, friends, and pastors, to which we committed ourselves so long ago.

Like any good parent, God our Father wants to see us grow big and strong, especially on the inside. And He wants to see us happy. That will happen if we remember where we’re headed and why we made our central commitments in the first place. It will happen if we let the Lord take our hand as we march forward with Him and don’t look back.

Don’t look back. It will only freeze you in place and embitter your soul. Instead, look forward, and look deep. You’ll be amazed at what’s waiting there for you!