As the daily display of beauty, otherwise known as, Fall in Mississippi intensifies, I was reminded of an earlier blog post and thought it might be good to give an update. Maybe you will remember me writing about the challenges Camille and I were facing in trying to bring the landscape at the parsonage into a more easily managed situation. We were dealing with a dead tree(s), shrub overload and especially an overwhelming amount of weeds! Now that Fall is definitely here, I feel a little bit like a general who has been battling a formidable opponent. It seems as if a truce has been declared. The weeds certainly aren’t advancing and we have moved back to a position of planning our next attack.
Perhaps the image of a great battle over dramatizes the situation just a bit but for me it has been a big challenge. Living in an apartment for the past several years really spoiled me with respect to all things lawn care related. Others took care of all the mowing, weeding, planting, blowing, etc. Part of me missed it a little but that feeling was quick to pass! I am loving the challenge of our new situation and spending time contemplating our next attack. There are some lessons we have learned along the way that, while not having anything to do with grass or weeds, might be of interest to any serious Christ-follower.
Following Christ, like working in the yard, is a lifetime project. We know that we will be needing to devote some amount of time and resources even when the yard is pretty much “complete”. One of the tragic mistakes made by Christ-followers is neglecting their walk with Christ. Worship, Bible reading, prayer, serving, fasting, giving can be overlooked or forgotten. What is often substituted for these time tested Spiritual Disciplines is what might been seen as “coasting”. If you take that approach in your yard, you will soon have another mess on your hands. Similarly, many a well-walking Christ-follower stumbled into sin or being unproductive by employing a strategy of “coasting”. No, the call of Jesus is to die DAILY, take up our cross and follow Him.
Another lesson learned in the yard relates to the nature of our walk when following Christ. Working in the yard will often feel as if we take one step forward and two steps backward! We have planted grass seed several times this year. Sometimes the seed grew in the designated areas in a wonderful way and sometimes not so much. One of the big challenges has to do with the really heavy downpours we sometimes get here. Rain is a wonderful and necessary thing but sometimes it washes away my grass seed!!! When that happens several times in a row, like it did this year, it can be discouraging and the thought creeps into your mind that the whole thing just isn’t worth it. Weeds aren’t so bad. Everybody else’s yards have weeds. These messages start playing in my head and they can be pretty tempting!
Following Christ is like that. Sometimes it seems that we are trying hard to live correct, God-honoring lives and then we face a setback. Maybe it’s a health crisis or financial setback. Maybe we are slighted at work or at Church or maybe are dealing with problems at home. The problems and struggles are real and every Christ-follower will face them. The temptation, usually in the form of a voice in our head, is consistent. The message is basically: “Why don’t you just give up? Who do you think you are? You will never be able to walk in God’s way.”
Working in the yard and following Christ have this in common: they are endeavors that need to be faced daily from a place of where we are. What I mean by that is that following Christ for each of us will look different because we are in different places of our walk in Him. The key to success is not comparing yourself to someone else. The key is reflecting upon where you have already traveled with King Jesus and where is the next step He requires of you today! We are all facing different situations and what might seem to some to be treading water in their faith is really a monumental step of faith! What this teaches me beyond my own personal walk with Christ has to do with how to relate to others in the Body of Christ. We all need to be encouraging one another because we don’t really know the progress and struggles of the person next to us. They may be just about ready to give up and a word of encouragement, especially in the form of showing your awareness of their progress so fair in following Christ, could be a game changer. Some of you have given me encouragement with respect to my yard. Your kindness does two things: first, it makes me see you care and acknowledge my effort and second, it introduces an element of accountability to the situation. Let me explain. If you are noticing my effort it will be much harder for me to quit because now I know you are pulling for me. This is part of the power of community if we will participate in it.
Right now we are planning our next attack to transform our yard into the beautiful spot that it can be. It will take careful planning, persistent effort and occasionally face disappointment. But what I do know is that this time next year, it will look radically different than today! No, it won’t be complete but it will be progress. What plans are you making right now with respect to your next steps of following Jesus? Like the yard, it will take planning, effort and face occasional setback. But also like the yard, the potential exists for you a year from now, Lord willing, to move mightily closer to resembling King Jesus! You can count on us to be cheering you on!