I added “helping to mow” to my eight-year old son’s chore list, and so yesterday, we worked together to get the yard done. Let me just say, it was a learning experience for both of us. For instance, I learned that to be an effective teacher, you have to give the other person freedom in learning. Like, how they process the information and even whether or not they listen to you at all.
I will just go ahead and admit that I am a perfectionist. My philosophy has always been, “If you can’t do something right, don’t do anything at all.” And this isn’t just aimed at other people. I aim this statement mercilessly at myself. Thus the reason I have been working for three years on two books, neither of which are even remotely close to being “finished.” Sure, I have a lot written, and much more in my head that I could write, but I don’t have anything “shelf ready” and though I realize this may never happen without some outside help, I can’t bring myself to admit that this isn’t a solo job and seek the outside help I need.
Anyway, as I stood in the yard yesterday watching him mow, I was horrified at his technique. Well, that is to say, there was no technique. He was carefree as he zigged and zagged catching a tuft of really long grass here and there and leaving the rest uncropped. When I reluctantly handed him the mower, I told him slowly about “the system,” which is my way of mowing the yard. It consists of visually cutting the yard into fourths and mowing each fourth in a square, from the outside in so that you don’t miss anything, and if you do it in the right direction, there are no lines and no grass waste covering the freshly mowed yard. I do it the same way every time I mow and it always looks great. Perfect, even. Well, “the system” went out the window the second he got his hands on the mower. Not only did he mow chaotically, he even ran with the mower a few times, and I just stood there, really wanting to say something but not saying anything at all. I decided to see how well his method worked out in the end.
There were many times when he would miss a patch of grass, but somehow he almost always managed to get back around to it. He was so enjoying the process of mowing the yard that I’m not sure if that was on purpose or accidental. Sometimes, he mowed the same patch of grass over and over and over again, but he was having so much fun, I just reveled in his joy. When he was finished, I told him he did a good job and then pointed out the parts he overlooked, and told him we would work on them together.
As I watched my son, I began to thank God that He is not a perfectionist. If He were, I know He’d be perpetually frustrated with me as I try over and over to learn the things He tries to teach me. But I see in Him a father who watches His child learn with utter fascination, noticing the parts they miss, but enjoying the process of growth too much to point it out right away. And when the lesson has been roughly learned, He lovingly points out the parts I missed and says, “That’s okay. We will work on this together next time.” And faithfully, He allows me a “next time.” I love Him for his infinite patience on my behalf