When I was a kid I remember Dad explaining that in order to make sure your lines in a field are straight when cultivating don’t try to steer and follow the previous pass, but instead keep your eyes fixed on a point in the distance and aim the tractor for that point. I’m pretty sure he taught that lesson not so much because he thought I’d be working a field some day, but because there is a spiritual parallel to this found in Hebrews 12:2 about fixing our eyes on Jesus rather than the circumstances around us.
It’s a valuable truth I’ve needed in life, but it turns out this past week I also needed the cultivating lesson because my GPS auto-steering quit working on my tractor. You know it’s much more tiring actually having to drive the tractor back and forth across the field instead of just making the turnaround at the ends? It takes a lot of concentration and Dad’s old lesson came back to me in a profound way. But I discovered another angle to that truth . . . literally.
We usually cultivate the fields immediately following harvest and then again later in the fall after fertilizing to work it in. I did the first pass at a cross angle of about 20 degrees off square then the second pass I did at 10 degrees so as to cross cultivate the first pass without the trip getting too rough. Doing this created a very strange optical illusion. Because the lines from the first pass were such a close angle to the second I kept getting the sensation that the tractor was tracking slightly sideways, kind of like a dog’s hind end does. My eye kept falling to the first pass line and it took constant concentration to focus on the true line and keep my orientation square.
It occurred to me that sin is like that. Larry Crabb makes a distinction between obvious sin and insidious sin. Obvious sin is when I am tempted to, for example, be dishonest. Insidious sin occurs when I resist and choose to be honest but in my mind begin to be proud of my righteousness. My focus has moved slightly off square, off of Jesus’ righteousness and my absolute dependence on him. It’s insidious because I may be still behaving right, but inwardly I have become an idolater worshiping my own goodness.
The cure? Same truth Dad told me: fix my eyes on Jesus who endured the cross for my sin.