The First Act
It was sunny, the days were long, and I was ambitious. The idealistic urge of beginning a new project propelled my motions. Frustration turned into motivation which turned into action. The project; my lawn. Riddled with crabgrass and infested with ever-spreading dandelions, it was certainly in disarray. After days of looking at it, wanting to work on it, but not yet having the time, I began. That moment... you might call it inspiration. Or Genesis 1 gardener mode, or enneagram type-3 achiever mode. Whatever you call it, I began.
At this point, you probably just want to see what it looked like. Ok. You win.
It's worth noting that just about everything behind the lawn mower is crabgrass or weeds. Also. Sweet pic of my lawn mower right?
Pulling, spraying, digging, reseeding, backaches, sweat, watering, weeks...
I had never done anything like this before, so I had my doubts.
"Will this crabgrass killer really work?"
"Do I really have to keep the new seed damp all the time?"
"How much should I water?"
"Can anything win against these ___ weeds?"
"Do I really need to keep fertilizing the grass regularly to keep it healthy?"
To my surprise, when I did what wise people (and instruction labels) said, the answer to most of my questions, was yes.
Take a gander.
I didn't realize it at the time (of course), but my spiritual life was undergoing a parallel story during this time. I was diving deeper into the spiritual disciplines and challenging the weeds in my own life, cutting at their roots, pulling them up one by one and filling the divots they left behind. It was incredibly difficult, and felt far less tangible than pulling another weed out of the ground.
But, in some ways, it was also more straightforward than I anticipated. When I was able to be honest with God about the places I was weak, he was able to address them in ways I never could. I felt the echo of Jesus' words to Paul "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Moving towards a pattern of self-disclosure with God was one of the more difficult, slow parts of the journey. I realized that for some reason, my tendency was to conceal myself from him. To hide. To run. To look for something to cover my shame.
But this posture of weakness...of humility... to simply acknowledge my areas of shortcoming and inability to change the way I'd like to, provided the ideal soil for the Spirit of God to seed new life in a way that I would be otherwise powerless to effect.
Paul goes on to say something confusing, and ironic:
"Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me."
At first glance, that seems wrong. Aren't we supposed to be overcomers? Effective managers of our own lives, armed to the teeth in discipline so that every challenge is really more of a joke than a struggle? Strange words Paul. A mystery.
At this point, we've diverged from the pure lawn analogy. My apologies. Let's back to it.
Spiritual Life is Like My Lawn
I wish that lawn care was a one-time event. Like a rite of passage that you speak of fondly at dinner with friends. It is not.
The grass grows back. Worse, the weeds grow back. The lawn yellows and exclaims "Fertilizer! Insufficient nitrogen!"
Our spiritual weeds grow back.
If you search for the best way to have a healthy lawn, the refrain is simply "have healthy grass." As it flourishes, the weed seedlings don't make it down to the soil. Its nutrients are spoken for. The sun doesn't reach them. The roots can't stretch out. "The best offense is a good defense," so they say in the world of sport. In proverbs they say "He who is full loathes honey, but to the hungry, even what is bitter tastes sweet." Think on that for a minute.
The discipline of continuing in a healthy way is, at least, equal to the importance of pulling weeds in the first place. Because they come back far quicker than they are ever removed. There is no better medicine than practicing health. Preventative is always king to reactive.
In Psalm 1, the life of the "blessed" person is described as:
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
Planting. Constant drinking from the stream. Yielding fruit. Always alive. Flourishing.
May your life be blessed.