Readings for June 30, 2019
1 Kings 19:16, 19-21
Galations 5:1, 13-18
Back in the day, I ran the mile for my high school track team. I wasn’t particularly fast, but once in a while I found myself in front of someone, and whenever that happened I would habitually look back, trying to judge what I needed to do to stay in front of them. Which is probably why my coach would often yell, “Don’t look back unless you’re going that way!” He wanted me to keep my eye on the prize, and he knew that I might miss an opportunity to catch the runner in front of me if I was too busy keeping track of who was behind me.
Jesus coaches his disciples in a similar manner. He tells them, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God.” And Jesus isn’t the first to caution us not to look back. We learn from Lot’s wife just how severe the consequences of looking back can be when she is turned into a pillar of salt (GEN 19:24-26). And as the Israelites are fleeing Egypt, they are looking back at Pharaoh’s army and warily ahead at the Red Sea, but God tells Moses, “Tell the people of Israel to go forward!” (EX 14:15-16) Isaiah learns this lesson when God tells him, “Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old” (IS 443:18). Also, the preacher of the book of Ecclesiastes tells his flock, “Say not, ‘Why were the former days better than these?’ For it is not from wisdom that you ask this” (ECC 7:10). And, of course, Jesus himself lives this as he was, despite warnings from those around him, “resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem” and, eventually, the Cross (Luke 9:51).
What I take from these verses and my coach’s advice is that I can’t look back, and I can’t hesitate when God asks me to move forward. If I do, looking back is a bit like a marriage proposal that is met with, “Let me first go back and have a few more dates with this other person, then I’ll join you.” God says, “Nope, now’s the time–yes or no, choose now.” God wants us to cling to him alone. He wants our focus, our attention, our goals, and our ambitions to be fully aligned with what He has in store for us.
God tells Elijah to anoint Elisha and Elijah immediately goes out into the fields to do so. Paul exhorts us to “live by the Spirit.” God will show us the path of life. There is a sense of urgency because God knows His plans for us and when we hesitate, we miss out. The good news is, of course, that God will ask again, with the same urgency. But we shouldn’t wait for the second, or third, proposal. We should–indeed we must–respond with the same urgency and love now. God’s got our back and we can trust Him to lead us forward. Don’t look back, say “yes” and move.
Out on the road today I saw a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac
A little voice inside my head said
Don’t look back, you can never look back
I thought I knew what love was
What did I know?
Those days are gone forever
I should just let ’em go, but …
-Don Henley, Boys of Summer