Growing up in Texas with grandparents that lived halfway across the state, our vacations were generally loading up the four of us kids into the van and driving six or more hours from Dallas to the wind and sand swept plains of Lubbock. I look back on those trips with great fondness and joy. There were plenty of “disagreements” along the way, and dad was resolute in his desire to make the drive without stopping, so you prepared in whatever way necessary to ensure you never uttered the words, “I have to go to the bathroom.” Ah, fond memories indeed.
Since we did not have cell phones or headrest TVs, our entertainment was engaging in the aforementioned disagreements, reading a book, playing “I spy”, or staring out the window as we passed by farms and cotton fields. It was those cotton fields etched into the flat, seemingly endless west Texas plains that captured my attention the most. Whether it was in the early spring during the planting season or late summer nearing the harvest season, I was mesmerized by the incredibly straight and aligned rows. I was intrigued by how someone could plow rows so uniformly and with such precision, especially given this was long before GPS-enabled tractors. With my mom and dad having grown up picking cotton in those fields, I asked my dad how in the world they were able to do that. He gave me a very simple answer: “The driver of the tractor keeps his eyes on a fixed point in the distance.”
That answer just happens to also be the answer to a life that has intentionality, purpose, and meaning. You find a fixed point in the distance, a destination to which you wish to arrive, and you keep your eyes fixed on it. For followers of Jesus Christ, that destination is clear: His likeness. No matter how hard someone or something attempts to divert your eyes and tempt you with momentary pleasure or fleeting worth, you keep your eyes fixed on Him. The moment our eyes begin to dart to the left or the right, the rows of our life will begin to look more like a sine wave than a straight line.
As we conclude the third quarter of our school year, I want to remind you of Heritage Preparatory School’s fixed point: our Portrait of a Graduate. There will inevitably be temptations to shift our eyes to something else. Those temptations will take on various forms and may appear to be exceptionally bright and shiny opportunities or dark and gloomy challenges, but they all have the same result: drift. It is incumbent upon us as a community to maintain our focus on the end result.
When Joshua led the nation of Israel across the Jordan to inhabit the Promised Land, the very first challenge that confronted them was the walled city of Jericho. On the outside, it appeared to be an insurmountable obstacle. Would God display his remarkable power by allowing the Israelites to cross the Jordan only to let them fall into the hands of the enemy? As Joshua approached Jericho, we find him coming up to a man:
And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood opposite him with His sword drawn in His hand. And Joshua went to Him and said to Him, “Are You for us or for our adversaries?” So He said, “No, but as Commander of the army of the Lord I have now come. (Joshua 5:13-14)
We all know the story of what happened after that, with the walls falling down and the nation of Israel seeing God move before them as they began to possess their land. But I am struck at how God records this account, specifically how He describes Joshua being confronted with the pre-Incarnate Christ and having to “lift his eyes”. If Joshua had remained focused on the path he was traveling, the people grumbling behind him, or the massive wall before him, it would have been easy to lose confidence and faith. Instead, his eyes were drawn to his Source. And once his eyes focused on Him, then everything else faded into the background.
As we head into spring break to enjoy a time of rest, I’d like to encourage you to “lift your eyes” to the Source of your strength, wisdom, discernment, and direction. In remaining focused on that fixed point in the distance, we can trust the rows of our life to be in alignment with His will and His purpose. Otherwise, our life will simply end up as a collection of meandering, abstract curves and lines criss-crossing each other, lacking purpose and direction.
Like that farmer plowing the rows for planting, let’s keep our eyes fixed on that which is worthy of living our life.
Enjoy your spring break!
Matthew H. Skinner