I have a confession. I love yard work. Cutting grass, pruning trees, planting vegetables, installing hardscapes, raking leaves, creating compost, all music to my ears. The smell of freshly turned earth to me is like Elmer’s glue to a pre-schooler. I know I shouldn’t, but something about that intriguing scent makes me want to taste it. I know it’s weird. Call it a sickness, a disease, a malady. Call it a result of being a country boy who now lives in the city, an agrarian suburbanite, whatever. I’ve got it bad.
I’ve got it so bad that, in the past, I have even engaged in watching TV shows about yard work. Between the HGTV and DIY networks alone, there are endless programs where you can watch other people transform their little slices of suburbia into re-created “Eden”.
But I recently noticed an interesting difference between the reality in which I live and the various versions of “Yard Crashers” which litter these networks. On TV, everything gets done in a single weekend. In my experience, on my particular acre of Jefferson County soil, the finished product is going on year thirteen. And we are no where close to being done. The more open space we reclaim from invasive ivy and privet, the more dirt we move, the more effort we invest, our soil always seems thirsty to absorb even more of our sweat.
Often times I long for a crew to pull into my driveway and simply knock everything out in a single weekend. The mole hills, the fire ant beds, the crab grass, the out of order flower beds, the vegetable garden that will not grow spinach but will produce weeds in abundance. But then I stop and think about the “process”, the “journey” that would be stolen from me if that actually happened. And I realized something. There is a type of beauty and peace which comes only from a long and steady investment in a particular plot of ground.
And then, as pastors often do, I began to think about God. I began to think about God, and I began to think about me, and about the almost 40 year “process” or “journey” that He has me on. I am not where I want to be. In many areas, I am weak. My faith seems often too frail to be a Shepherd, my soul too burdened to be a pastor. I want God to show up with a crew and in a single weekend fix all the things that are not perfect. The mole hills, the fire ant beds, the crab grass, you get the idea.
But here again, there is a type of beauty and peace which comes only from a long and steady investment which you can not get with a weekend makeover. We are not fully what we are being made into. And yet, because of the gospel, neither are we fully what we once were. Great beauty can be observed in seeing what the Holy Spirit has accomplished and is continually accomplishing in us over time, this process we call “sanctification”. And what this observance of beauty, this experience of peace often does is to point us, not to what we have done or achieved, but to the true Gardner who has accomplished it all.
I like my little acre. I see the lenten roses where weeds once ruled, the gladiolus in place of the rotted pine stump. I remember the thought, the planning and the effort that went into those changes, and my heart is made glad. I think I’ll go cut grass.