As a 5 or 6 year old kid, I can vaguely remember the sweet juicy strawberries on my grandma Meyer's farm. Grandpa had died the year before I was born so I never knew him. My mother has told me accounts of grandpa Meyer and the man sounds like he would have stood head and shoulders above most men.
Evidently, grandpa was one who believed in looking toward the future because yesterday is gone and it 'ain't' coming back. Grandpa (and the entire family) endured the loss of a farmhouse to a fire, He learned his 5 year old son had been struck and killed by a car. He watched his 12 year old daughter die of scarlet fever. His youngest daughter (my mom) had a tumor removed from her hip at fives years of age and to this day walks around on a leg 2 inches shorter than the other.
Through all of this heartache, one story of my grandpa rises above all the others. Mom recalls the days on the Fordson tractor cultivating the garden. She always muses that her older and stronger brothers rarely had to drive the tractor. She was responsible for pulling a tractor mounted cultivator that needed to be managed by grandpa. This young girl faithfully learned the art of tractor driving but struggled with the curiosity of a child. While driving the tractor, she would often turn around in the seat and look back.
Stop, take some masking tape and put a 15 foot strip of it on your floor. Start at one end, look at the other end, and walk the length of the strip. Keep firmly planted on the tape. Easy, right? Now, start walking from one end of the tape to the other and this time one step into your journey look backward but continue to walk forward. What generally happens is we stray off the tape strip.
Follow me back to the garden plot where mom was on the Fordson, grandpa on the cultivator, and mom wanting to look back while driving forward. Precious strawberry plants out front of the tractor
were in danger of destruction from tractor tires and grandpa would be trying to manhandle the cultivator to avoid tearing the plants out of the ground behind the machine. Here is what mom remembers most that day and what she has always taught her kids. Grandpa yelled at the top of his lungs, "Don't look back! Look at the far end of the row and concentrate on it. Don't look back here!"
Let's face it friends. Stuff happens. Illness robs us of health, a lost job gets us behind the eight ball, death is never a welcome guest. Someone we valued as a friend has said or done something hurtful to us and we are stuck. The temptation for us is to wallow in the past and grieve forever the things we have lost. Not saying grieving is a bad thing; in fact, I encourage healthy grieving for it is the source of healing. To eternally be looking backward at all the wreckage left behind is counterproductive and eventually ruins anything in front of us. Our life potential (that which is ahead of us) is in danger of being run over by the tractor tires of our grief. The plant we are trying to cultivate and hoping will bear fruit (that which is behind us) is in danger of being torn out of the ground because our fascination with what lies behind us holds more importance than where God is calling us to.
Jesus called many to follow him. He made it quite clear that what was ahead in the journey would be infinitely more valuable than what was behind. He didn't dismiss the past as insignificant but commanded followers to keep looking ahead. Live forward toward the Kingdom of God!
"As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied,
“Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” He
said to another man, “Follow me.” But the man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus
said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Still
another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family.” Jesus replied,
“No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
(Luke 9:57-62, NIV)
Friends, it's okay to visit the past, to learn from it, and even to grieve things we have lost there. but it isn't our home. The past isn't a healthy place to live and it ain't coming back. Look forward to where God is calling us and trust the point on the horizon where He awaits our arrival. Isn't it comforting to know God goes before us and leads the way? Go forward with God today my friends, because he goes with us. (aka, DON"T LOOK BACK!)