Opposition to the Plow
This week is officially the end of our first-ever blog series. (If you missed last week on the thorny places you can find it here.) Throughout my study I have been challenged and convicted; while I was pondering how I wanted to wrap this up God encouraged me to let you into the place that He's been pruning at in me. So in the spirit of honesty and transparency, this is a glimpse into the growth that God is tending in my field.
At the beginning of this year, my husband and I were living a quiet little life, on a quiet little street and loving most of the minutes of it. When we first moved to our neighborhood years before that, it felt like we were stepping into a different world. I was used to a secluded life on the backside of a ridge, hidden between forests and farmland. Now I could see my neighbors! Even more shocking: they could see me! Our little home had very thin walls and even thinner windows, most of what we did could be heard from the sidewalk. I felt like I was living in a fishbowl and all of the dirty secrets that we had been hiding in our backwoods home had followed us into our new-town life and I couldn't keep them swept under the rug anymore. Our neighbors could hear the screaming and the banging, as plates and insults were being thrown side-by-side. I was embarrassed and ashamed. This move was supposed to change things, but we neglected to leave Joe's addiction behind, and, not one to be left out, my co-dependency followed suit.
Praise Jesus, our lives were transformed in that home, the screaming subsided and gave way to worship as God healed the broken things. But every time I walked out on that street and saw a neighbor looking my way I was reminded of who I used to be. The same people that had heard me scream awful things now saw me carrying a Bible and rocking a Jesus tee. I worried they thought I was a hypocrite. I talked to my landlords about Jesus many times, and sometimes to our neighbor that lived across the street but not like I should have. I smiled and waved and commented on the weather but that was the extent of most of my interactions. I dropped the ball and neglected to pick it back up again. So when we talked at church about reaching out to your neighbors I always walked away convicted, because though I was faithful in plowing other fields, I wasn't doing it there.
Then we moved. For years I had echoed the “send me” prayer of Isaiah. I believed that I was sincere in my prayer, but once He sent me, I realized that what I had really meant was, “Send me to a nice place, with nice people, where the ground is soft and the harvest is ready.” But God had different plans.
I would like to sit here and tell you that I was excited for the new adventure to see God's hand at work, but I was not. I felt sorry for myself and I wallowed in my self-pity for longer than I would like to admit. My “send me” prayer turned into “not there” and I was miserable and making those around me miserable too. It took the intervention of God to center my attention on His will again. I realized that we were being sent as missionaries. That this was a chance at redemption. The ball that I had dropped in our old neighborhood was squarely back within my grasp. I had a precious chance at a do-over and I wasn't going to miss it.
I began well, making the most of every opportunity (or most of them anyway.) Then life...then stress...then running late...and slowly but surely momentum was lost and here I am, confessing that I am living amid a dry place, a hard place, a place filled with rocks and thorns and I have been enticed away from the field. Do I pray over my community? Absolutely. The neighbors that I have had a chance to truly talk to know what I stand for and Who I stand with. But I have not gone out of my way to meet people, to forge new relationships, and that same conviction that I carried around in our quiet home is bearing down on my soul here in this not-so-quiet place too.
So while this study wasn't just for me, it was for me. I needed to be reminded of what was at stake and put my hand to the plow again, but I have a suspicion that I'm not the only one who needed this reminder. So my dear brethren, know that we are in this together as we press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed us. (Philippians 3:12)
“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves”
- James 1:22 NKJV
So what keeps the workers from the fields? Spiritual gluttony.
What is spiritual gluttony, you ask? I asked the same question when God first spoke the phrase to my heart. I realized one cannot reach a point deemed over-indulgent when it comes to learning the things of God. So spiritual gluttony has nothing to do with the amount of intake and everything to do with the output. It is eating but never doing. Jesus said in Matthew that “man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” We take in nutrients, or bread, to strengthen us to plow, to work, to push forward, and not look back! When we are in a state of spiritual gluttony we take and take and take and never expend the energy that we have taken in.
Spiritual gluttony is manifest through laziness. I don't know about you but I've heard my fair share of insults in life, but for some reason being called lazy particularly upsets me. Maybe it's because it is a fight that I have been fighting most of my life—I was a talented student but lazy, due to procrastination I ended up doing little more than was required of me to pass, squandering my potential. It's something that I've prayed about and God has helped me to find a measurable amount of freedom, but at times I find myself falling back into procrastination (which goes hand in hand with laziness) and becoming easily distracted I struggle to finish what I started on time.
“Those too lazy to plow in the right season will have no food at the harvest.”
- Proverbs 20:4 NLT
I doubt the farmer mentioned in Proverbs 20:4 planned on missing his deadline to plow. I'm sure there was valid excuse after valid excuse until he realized it was too late, the window was missed and now not just he but those that he was responsible for went hungry. I get that. I find myself there too often. I get distracted by this or that, though my intentions are good my output does not meet the goal. That's the thing with plowing, we strike one hindrance after another; if it's not one thing opposing the plow another will show up in its place. While the struggle is real and our God is merciful, there is a window that can be missed. I only lived in my old neighborhood for so long, all of the good intentions in the world did not buy me extra time there. I missed the window, I missed the opportunity to shine more brightly for Jesus. Friends, I don't want us to come to the end of our lives and realize that there is no harvest in our fields because we allowed laziness and procrastination to keep us from tilling the soil.
I will end this series with a quote from the beginning: if there is no increase the first place we should troubleshoot is whether or not our hand it to the plow. We have been forgiven, healed, and given new life. We have hope and a future and joy and peace. We know the One who breathed the universe into existence and we have the privilege of calling Him Father. We mustn’t keep this to ourselves!
“How terrible for you who sprawl on ivory beds and lounge on your couches, eating the meat of tender lambs from the flock and of choice calves fattened in the stall. You sing trivial songs to the sound of the harp and fancy yourselves to be great musicians like David. You drink wine by the bowlful and perfume yourselves with fragrant lotions. You care nothing about the ruin of your nation”.
- Amos 6:4-6 NLT
Our nation is in ruin, our community is in ruin and we have the answer! Let’s not allow the enemy to entice us away with comfort, distraction, and procrastination. There is no better time to start than now. There is no better place to begin than where He has placed us. It’s time to stop waiting until the stars align and all is right in our lives (and schedules) to start doing the work of the Kingdom and put our hand to the plow. The time is now to start quietly pushing forward, through the boredom, through the monotony, through the hardship and the loneliness and the fatigue, and into the promise. We are all called to plow. This isn’t for a chosen few with a title beside their names. My field may look different from yours but that is no excuse for us not to put forth the effort, deny ourselves, and follow until the end. Our community needs us and our God has chosen us for such a time as this!
Written by Amanda Strauser