My family has a secret grass competition with the neighbors. I say “secret” because the neighbors don’t know about it. If you happen to be one of my neighbors reading this: you’re going down your lawn is lovely. Keep up the good work!
Last year, we won by yards and yards (fair warning: puns are coming). This was mainly because our neighborhood was still developing and we didn’t have much competition. BUT THIS YEAR the stakes are higher. Much higher.
The guy who lives down the street is the reigning champ. His house is several years older, so he’s had some time to get it right. In the Spring, he burns his grass so it can start fresh, then he’s out weeding every Sunday. One day, I left in the morning, came home that afternoon, and he’d planted a little flower bed complete with a tree in the middle of his grass and that just made it more beautiful. His house sits on a hill, so his lawn is like this blanket of green softness. It’s nice.
Then there’s another neighbor who paid top dollar for the best grass he could get, but that backfired and now it’s all patchy and strange. We didn’t worry about that one too much last year, but the other day I saw a lawn care truck in the front yard, so he’s back in the game.
Next to us, the neighbors have new sod, so they hired a professional team to get it going. So far, so green. Other than Man on the Hill, this may be our biggest competition.
Most of the other yards surrounding us are fenced, so we don’t have to worry about those lawns looking better. But my room is on the second floor and gives me a great view of all kinds of stuff, so I keep an eye on it all just in case.
A few days ago, I looked out the window and said, “Dad, you need to step it up. I think the neighbors are winning.” And he said, “What are you doing to help out?” And I said, “I keep an eye on the competition for you.”
I fit so many writer-who-lives-upstairs stereotypes, by the way.
But the other day, I didn’t go to work until later in the afternoon, so I decided to contribute to my family’s most humble cause of having the best grass ever.
I’d never cut the grass before, as yard work has always been my dad’s turf (literally). But I went out there and took one for the team.
We’ve had ridiculous amounts of rain recently, so the grass was tall and thick…and deceptive, since we have a dog. I’ll let you finish that train of thought on your own.
But I got busy on it. And let me tell you, our front yard is basically on par with the Augusta National now.
Golf pun. I warned you.
We still have work to do if we want to stay in the running, but the grass is looking great. Except for the little hill that separates our yard from the neighbors’. I scalped that.
And the random mohawk-looking patch in the front.
And that area on the edge of the neighbors’ yard where the mower got caught for a minute. But it’ll grow back and it was a total accident. Not like I’d try to sabotage or anything.
People always say, “Pics or it didn’t happen,” and I didn’t take any pics of those issue areas, so…we’ll just say they didn’t happen.
But other than that? It’s going to be an interesting summer. And believe it or not, rallying around this cause is one of my family’s more normal bonding activities.
Of course, we’re joking in all of this (mostly). We’re not really in a huge competition, and we’re not focused on beating the neighbors at the grass game. It’s just fun. But I can’t help but see a metaphor in this (I had two cups of coffee this morning, so hold on tight).
With this whole grass thing, it’s all about looking good on the outside. When people see the yard from a distance, they’re like, “Wow, that’s a nice lawn!”
But up close? There are some weeds, some patchy spots, some uneven ground, some evidence of our dog’s existence.
That’s not what we want people to see, though. We want people to see how nice it looks, not the imperfections.
Hey, Christians, that’s us. Or me, at least.
Sometimes, I get so caught up in wanting to look like I have it all together. I’m going to seminary, so shouldn’t I look like I’ve got life figured out if I want any chances to help others?
When people see me, I want them to see joy and light and God’s grace shining through me. Like a glow stick. A neon green one.
It’s so easy to get caught up in appearances and making sure we look like we’ve got it under control that we forget to give God the control. We forget to let Him work inside of us, making us different before we can live different.
If I’m really wanting to be a glow stick of God’s grace, I need to actually accept that grace. I need to know it’s not about my efforts or how “good” and “put together” I look, but rather about how good God is and how He is the one working all things together.
That’s grace. It’s God giving us what we don’t deserve and don’t earn. We don’t earn it. We. don’t. earn. it.
“For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:9, NLT).
Our lives are lived holy when we’re living in His grace. When we’re surrendering our attempts and efforts and ideas of “goodness” to Him. When we let the Holy Spirit do what He’s in our lives to do – teach us wisdom, reveal His truths, give testimony to His glory.
We can’t earn His grace, but we want to live holy lives because we love Him.
When I’m honest, in the deepest part of my heart, sometimes I get caught up in the display rather than the discipline. I get caught up in looking holy rather than learning holiness.
There may be short (very short) times when I seem to have it together on my own, but then the rain comes and someone spills the birdseed and weeds grow and my dog shreds a piece of cardboard all over the yard. And suddenly? It doesn’t matter how straight those lawnmower rows are.
Want to know something honest? I didn’t cut the grass earlier this week because I wanted to join the game we’ve got going. I did it because I was having a hard day. I was stressed about something difficult I’ve been going through, and I needed to get out some energy instead of sitting inside and being sad. Ironically, I chose an activity that’s all about keeping up appearances.
“But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’” (James 4:6, ESV)
So I want to learn to live my life in humility, knowing that anything good that comes from my life doesn’t actually come from me – it comes from Christ in me. And I can live with honesty and truthfulness so that I’m not covering up the grace work Jesus wants to do in me.
My front yard’s grass—my life—doesn’t have to always be green. It just has to grow in grace.
And I’d rather grow in grace than exhaust myself with the effort of keeping it all together. Because God’s way is like fertilizer – it grows strong, healthy grass. The other way is like getting the mower stuck on top of a hill…and trying to spread the clippings over the bald patch.
By His grace,