Lessons from the lawnmower: lesson 1

July 4th, 2014

It looks as if the long hard winter is finally behind us. The leaves are green. The flowers are finally starting to bloom, and the grass is growing. As I spend more time outside, mowing and gardening, I find more time to contemplate. I find that God has a lot to teach me during these busy months, if I only take time to listen...

Lesson #1: What’s Wrong? What’s Right?

Last week, as I left the house Friday evening to go grocery shopping, I casually mentioned to my sons that any help with the lawn would be appreciated. I left without expectation that much would get done.

An hour later, my tween called clearly upset. He wanted to know when I would be home. This is usually a sign that either something is wrong or that someone is hungry—again. He proceeded to tell me that he had somehow “popped” the tire on the lawn mower. He was very concerned that he would be in “trouble.” I assured him that his Dad and I do not punish for accidents and that we were just thankful that he had not been injured.

While I remained calm on the line, I was really frustrated. The lawn really needed to be mowed, and my husband and two younger sons were going to be gone all the next day helping with work on the grandparent’s lawn. The older boys would be working all day tomorrow and even Sunday.

As I talked to my husband about the situation, we questioned why his older brothers weren't out there helping. “I know they work and go to school, but they also have some responsibility at home,” my husband said. I agreed. It was aggravating. “They never want to do anything,” I thought. “And I don't want to have to fight them over it or beg.”

It had been a tiring day, and as I drove home I wondered how much it would cost to repair the wheel on the mower, how long it would take for my husband to get it fixed, and whether he would be able to work on it when he got home much later that evening from delivering a load of mulch to his parents' house.

As I drove into the dark driveway, I searched for the broken down lawn mower, but couldn't see it in the dark. Instead, I saw the lights from our tractor sweeping across the back field. My oldest son, a teenager who had worked a ten-hour shift that day and who had to be back at work early the next morning, was mowing the back part of our five acres. I wanted to cry.

As a mother, I probably believe in my children more than anyone else. I see the good in them when maybe no one else does. But I also tend to see the other side as well—their mistakes, their faults, their flaws. I guess that's a good thing. I don't want to be blinded to their humanity. I don't want to be one of those parents who always thinks that their children are right. But sometimes, like in the case of the mowing, I also find myself expecting the worse. That's a sad thing.

That night I learned a valuable lesson. My tween took a risk. He doesn't like mowing. It makes him nervous. He's always afraid he will mess something up. Yet, he tried it anyway, and yes, he “popped” a tire, but he tried. And I appreciated the effort. And my older son sacrificed his down time, his rest, his time with friends to mow, not because he had to but because he wanted to help us.

Does God look down at me, sinful creature that I am, and sit back expecting me to fail at every turn? Of course not.

God loves me and empowers me with the Holy Spirit to do what is right. I imagine that Jesus is cheering me on, encouraging me to live in his example. And when I fail, as I often will, God is ready and willing to forgive me, to pick me up and help me to try again. As a mother shouldn't I choose to do the same for my boys?

Will I sometimes be disappointed? Yes, they will sometimes not choose wisely. Sometimes they may fail. Sometimes they will take their own path, do their own thing. But isn't it much better to expect the best and be disappointed a few times than to leave my sons wilting from a lack of confidence and trust?

That night God used a deflated tire to help me recognize my deflated attitude. God reminded me of Philippians 4:8. “From now on, brothers and sisters, if anything is excellent and if anything is admirable, focus your thoughts on these things: all that is true, all that is holy, all that is just, all that is pure, all that is lovely, and all that is worthy or praise.”

If you read much of my writing, you probably realize that this isn't the first time God has brought this verse to mind. In fact, I often think of it. God knows that I need the continual reminder to think about what I think about—even when it comes to how I think about others. While I don't need to turn a blind eye to areas in which my children may need correction or guidance, I can apply this verse to how I think about them. Instead of expecting the worst, I can think about the best. Even when they mess up, there are still plenty of things that I can recall that remind me of their “excellence,” of times when they are “admirable” and “holy.”

Until now, I am not sure that I ever considered this verse in terms of how I look at people. So, this season, my first “lesson from the lawnmower” is this: From now on, when I think of my children (or anyone for that matter) before considering what is wrong I want to think about what is right.

Stay tuned for more lessons. As the grass and weeds grow taller every day, I'm sure there will be many more to follow. 

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