Once again another semester has come and gone, and I, standing at this crossroads that is Christmas break, am given a chance to reflect on the whirlwind that was my life for the last four months. This past semester may have been the most difficult one ever, but because it was difficult it was also rewarding—spiritually and intellectually.
In October, I learned what it is like to be confronted with something that turns you bitter against the Lord and to choose that bitterness and to pretend that everything is still okay even when it isn’t. Losing both of my grandmothers three months apart from each other was not exactly my ideal plan for how life was going to go this year. And I refused to acknowledge for a couple weeks that I was angry with the Lord for taking them both so quickly. In a sense, I didn’t want Him to heal this grief in me. I told myself that I was okay with their deaths. I just didn’t want anyone to be involved—even God. And then one day, wondering why I was having such a difficult time praying, I realized that I had put this wall up.
I asked myself: What kind of disciple would I be if I stopped here, dropped the cross, and turned back now? I knew then that I couldn’t drop the cross, that I didn’t want to drop the cross. I knew I had to be faithful, to move forward, to allow this piece of the cross to shape me towards sainthood. I knew that I had already set my hand to the plow and that I could not look back. I wanted to be fit for the Kingdom of God.
Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
– Luke 9:61–62
This image of plowing was one that continued with me through the rest of the semester, as I struggled with the difficulties of researching and writing my thesis, trying to complete my reading homework, and saying “no” to numerous opportunities that I would have taken if I didn’t have work to do. The image of plowing is one that will probably continue with me through the rest of my life. Why?
Plowing is an image that speaks to me of choice. It reminds me that I have chosen. I have chosen Christ. I have chosen holiness. I have chosen to plow until I reach the Kingdom. I have chosen to write. I have chosen to love.
Deliberately I have set my hand to work, knowing that it will be difficult—the soil is heavy, the plow is clumsy, my grip is slippery. I am going to sweat. There is going to be struggle, exhaustion. Perhaps sometimes I will fall.
And when I am overwhelmed in the midst of a furrow, I can abandon the field, leaving it unfinished and unable to bear abundant fruit. I can look back. But then my work will be unfit for the Kingdom of God.
Or I can plow ever onwards, ever so slowly, in the path I have already chosen, towards the Kingdom of Heaven. Christ Himself waits at the end of the furrow with open arms. All I need is to keep my eyes on Him—to persevere—and He will allow my plowing to make the field fertile.
Constancy that nothing can shake. That’s what you need. Ask God for it, and do what you can to obtain it: for it is a great safeguard against your ever turning from the fruitful way you have chosen.
- St. Josemaria Escriva