In the gospel of Luke there’s an account of Jesus’ response to several people who have excuses for why they can’t follow him. One man says, “Let me go back and say goodbye to my family,” to which Jesus replies, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
I’ve been thinking about that verse recently, and what it might mean for me as someone who has surrendered my life to overseas ministry.
I don’t have much experience with pushing a plow, but recently I’ve labored to push a lawn mower around our hilly yard here in Papua. It takes my full focus and effort, because if I look away for a moment, it’s very likely I might run over a rock hidden in the tall grass, or an old soccer ball the dog has drug into the yard. I imagine pushing a plow takes equal concentration and strength.
In the verses from Luke, the man merely wanted to say goodbye to his family. That in itself is not a bad thing, but for whatever reason, Jesus thought saying goodbye could deter this man. Maybe Jesus knew that if the man saw his family again, they might persuade him from his commitment to serve Jesus.
I have found in my life as a missionary, many things – even good things – can become distractions. Lately, one of the main things that has been a distraction has been the recent U.S. presidential election. Thanks to social media and CNN, we are able to follow U.S. news closely and in “real time” and I find that hours can be frittered away reading blogs and articles. It almost becomes an idol when I find my focus turns from the “garden” in front of me to what I’ve left behind (to go back to the plow analogy).
To straddle two worlds is a challenge of overseas living. We want to be fully engaged here in our life and ministry in Papua, but the pull of family and events back “home” can tug on us and pull our focus from the task at hand. May God help us to keep our focus ahead and on Him.