I grew up in the tobacco fields of south Graves County. From the time I was around 9 or 10, I spent my summers walking up and down rows of tobacco, hoeing, pulling weeds, pulling suckers, or whatever else needed to be done.
Early summer was the time of year to get rid of the weeds, and we did that with a hoe. Sometimes the weeds weren't bad at all and you could go across the field pretty quick, other times, not so much. As a little kid, the temptation was always there to do a quick scan of the field to pick out the rows with fewer weeds, but even as a kid, my conscience wouldn't let me do that.
Something inside me knew that if I went ahead and took one of the tougher rows, that eventually, it would pay off. And it did. I never had to look for work. I stayed busy when other people that I worked with were sitting at the store waiting for someone to hire them. I'm not saying this to brag or anything, just that sometimes taking the easy way out is not the best way.
This morning's devotional text is from Mark 10. If you're familiar with Mark 10, you'll remember that within that chapter is the story about the rich young ruler. He had kept all the commandments all of his life and had done, he thought, a pretty good job with his life. He hadn't stolen anything or murdered anyone, he had honored his parents, he hadn't lied or committed adultery, but there was something else that was missing.
And then Jesus did it, and I love the way Mark records this. Here's what he says, "Jesus looked at him and loved him." He knew what he was about to say, and he knew that it was going to hit this guy like a brick right between the eyes. So instead of beating the guy over the head with it, he looked at him and loved him, then simply told him what he needed to do. It would be a hard row to hoe.
I know that what we have been called to be is tough, and so did Jesus. But we make decisions everyday either to hoe the hard rows, or not. Yesterday, a friend of mine told me that she really had a hard time being nice to someone she didn't like, but she did it anyhow. She hoed a hard row, and I was proud of her for that.
We won't always be asked to do something as big as selling everything we own and giving all the money to the poor, but in our day to day, there are going to be those moments when Jesus will just look at us and love us because of a decision we are going to have to make. Either we walk away with our heads down, saddened over threatened loss, or we choose the not so easy way out. The decision is always ours.
May Christ love you through your hard rows to hoe.