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Mowing the Lawn, and the Holy Spirit?!

Updated: Sep 25, 2021

Dr. RB McFee

Lawnmower by

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”

Colossians 3:23

Saturday was pretty busy for a supposed day off. Ever have that experience? Among the many things to juggle included cleaning out part of my garage and assessing backyard tree debris from the last storm. Sound familiar to anyone else in the process of “adulting?”

Venturing forth into my verdant domestic domain – all ¼ acre of it, I noticed a resemblance to African wilderness – think Serengeti - which led to a stark and dramatic realization if I was ever going to succeed at “adulting”….I would have to mow the lawn.

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m a city gal. I’m not talking about cozy rural cities like Worcester, which I proudly call home at this point in my life. No, I’m talking about metroplexes with neighborhoods bigger than Worcester! Think Philadelphia, New York, London, Washington DC, and, well you get the idea. My idea of a lawn until living up here was tantamount to whatever grew on my deck.

A word about lawns – grass from my perspective. I enjoy watching those happy little green blades grow tall, merrily reaching up to the sky, like any other creation of God, trying to meet its potential in life. Live and let live. I just let the grass and whatever else was accompanying it – some with purple flowers, others with yellow – do their thing and live in symbiotic peace with me.

Sadly there are those in my midst who feel the need for lawnicide – and in my neighbor’s cases (ALLLLLL of them) a seemingly daily ritual of decapitating the poor unsuspecting blades of happy little grasslings minding their own business, and doing what God intended them to do…grow up to be bigger blades of grass. If you listen carefully, you can almost hear the tiny shouts of protest…..much like dragging children to their first haircut or dental appointment. The horror of it all!

We don’t hunt sparrows, why do we feel the need to decapitate grass and violets and dandelions? So I decided to not do it! No green blood on my hands!

I have always prided myself in not being a follower. I kind of march to the beat of a different tune in life – harm no one but hearing other music. But there are times when the choice of being voted off the island loom large, so Heaven forgive me, I decided, or perhaps the growing height of the McFee jungle decided for me, I should have to invade the tranquility of the grassling ecosystem.

That said, do you know how difficult it is to find a lawn service that will show up at all, let alone on time, and without charging the national debt of a small European nation?

Well you know what they say…if you want a job done right. So being environmentally conscious I purchased a low demand electric lawnmower, and some extension cords. As an environmental toxicologist I try to avoid overstuffed batteries, which meant being tethered to the nearest power source.

I’m not too proud to share with you the learning curve. Never purchase green extension cords when using an electric mower. Lesson learned, their replacements are bright orange. Enough said on that. You probably can see the imagery.

So here we are back to Saturday….and I have, God forgive me, embarked upon the mowing down in the prime of their little summer lives innocent blades of grass, disturbing the tranquility of a bird chirping neighborhood with the subtlety of a Patton tank rolling into Belgium. It is a traumatic experience and one fraught with words thought that a proper lady would not express publicly, the incessant replugging in of the cords, the unseen wood and other hazards causing my machine to sputter and stop, I felt my inner tranquility erupt into a Vesuvius like emotion deep down as my inward screams came perilously close to being uttered publicly…WHY AM I DOING THIS….I HATE MOWING THE LAWN.

As an aside, have you ever in the course of “adulting” (a very difficult job by the way) done something you just don’t like? Of course that is the very definition of being an adult – balancing the privileges that come with achieving grown-up status, and the responsibilities inherent in the opportunities.

It was then that I heard the voice of the Holy Spirit….”be grateful you have a lawn.”

Wow did that encounter stop me in my tracks! And start me on a very meaningful dialogue…ok tutorial is probably a better description. The Holy Spirit schooled me – on Colossians 3:23, on gratitude, on reflecting Jesus in all I do, especially in the daily acts of “adulting.” I may be the only “Bible” someone reads – by my actions during the good, the tiring, the rewarding, and the not so fun aspects of life.

Now I have always prided myself on being an appreciative person. But the Holy Spirit was right. I had to stop what I was doing, look around, and see a backyard that was full of happy memories, and not just the responsibility of the lawn. Or the front where many an Easter egg hunt happened, or, well you get the idea.

Life isn’t always easy. Our backyards aren’t always just the scene of bar-b-q and cookout revels. There are responsibilities that come with privilege. It is in the midst of our toils we are reminded of our blessings. It is because of the opportunity to work, to create, to build, to have and to hold, that we must be thankful.

I am reminded of one of my favorite Apostles – Paul. He was flogged, beaten, imprisoned, shipwrecked, often hungry, homeless, tired….deprivations few of us have ever experienced, and if we have, it has been for a brief time, at least compared to Paul, who for thirty years served Jesus, spreading the word of Christ from Syria, throughout much of the Roman Empire. He often split his time between preaching, and earning a living as a tent maker. And he often spent much of his preaching, writing, evangelizing time in prisons.

What we do matters, and how we do it often matters even more. So from hence forth the remainder of my mowing moments were filled with reminders that I was blessed. How many people have a home, lawn notwithstanding? Or can walk long enough to push a lawnmower? Or, well you get the idea.

Think about all the people you encounter who work at a variety of jobs – from barista to barber…..

Consider the housekeepers in the hospital. Too often they are overlooked, even treated as unseen fixtures, when in fact they are among the most important people at health care facilities. Why? Beyond the obvious that a clean room is a healthier room, often it is the housekeeper who takes the time to interact with the patient on a basic human level, not a clinical one.

In all my years working at hospitals or clinical facilities, the people who most reflected Colossians 3 were the ones who never forgot about the humanity in the building, and their role in preserving it.

As a physician who has spent a fair amount of time at health care facilities I have seen patients near death, ravaged by disease, wearing a near constant countenance of sorrow, only to brighten up with a big smile when one of the housekeepers came in and chatted with them. These were most powerful, albeit brief friendships.

Many of the housekeepers wear their job with joy; down deep they sense what I know – they provide the humanity so desperately needed in an environment that often is focused on clinical curing, but sometimes forgets human healing.

Yet who among us would think about the difficult job of hospital housekeeper as an important social good? Or try to wear it lightly and even joyously, when for most folks they unthinkingly would dismiss it as a low pay job. That would be a pity to reduce any effort to the mere monetary, or as drudgery. If a job exists, it is important to someone, and can either be comported with a sense of purpose (we work for God and our efforts reflect Him more than us), or a sense of gloom.

Put differently, consider nearly every patient would gladly trade their hospital bed for the ability to grab a mop and independently walk the halls using it.

Life really is about perspective.

So getting back to mowing the lawn….the Holy Spirit in that one phrase reminded me of the gratitude I should feel at being able to do what many of my former patients cannot do – walk freely outdoors into the sunlight, unfettered by IV poles, or wires, or tubes… push something for hours on end – even i