An antique plow is still sitting in the hallway of our church. When I saw it for the first time in the dim silence of an empty building, it seemed like something unexpectedly sacred. Something profound and pointed. There is beauty in the utilitarian curves, the worn grey wood, the aged metal touched with rust, the simple command framed in black above it: “Burn them.”
That plow is a tangible illustration of one man’s whole-hearted response when God came calling. A challenge to leave our lives behind and follow wherever He leads. A reminder that obedience often looks counter-intuitive, maybe down-right crazy, to the world at large. There’s no escaping that. But maybe someone* who is busy burning a plow, his heart focused on what God is saying, has no time for looking around and wondering what people think.
I used to wonder at the prophets, how when they heard the Word of the Lord it changed them, sent them wandering and somewhat wild, prone to unpopular declarations and inconvenient tasks…used to wonder how the thousands of years worked to tame the Word of the Lord till it fit into soft-colored pews and Sunday morning schedules before lunch. It took me awhile to realize that ears-listening to the Word of the Lord isn’t always the same as heart-listening to the Word of the Lord, and that when a person really hears what God is saying his life will go against the grain in all kinds of wildly wonderful ways.
I am reading about Katie and her thirteen children in Uganda, a beautiful mom barely more than a teen herself, and reading about newlyweds crossing the world to bring God’s love to people who don’t even want it, and reading sister-heart Ann saying “Compassion…is a feeling so strong that it causes you to bend: it shapes your body, your life, into a response. Compassion is the radical cross-shaping of a life.” (VosKamp) I see the plow every time I walk into the building and wonder what God is calling us to as a Body, as individuals. Vance Havner said something along the lines of “You live what you believe; the rest is only talk.” That’s what makes the plow so powerful– because what you are willing to do for God shows what you really believe, and the evidence is both in what you are running toward, and in what you are leaving behind.
(*You can read the story of Elisha and his plow in 1 Kings 19:15-21.)
“…let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2)
“We may never be martyrs but we can die to self, to sin, to the world, to our plans and ambitions. That is the significance of baptism; we died with Christ and rose to new life.” (Vance Havner)