I am so sore and achy from what may have been one of the toughest and most physically taxing conversations I’ve had with The Father. Well, that is, He used my chore yesterday to speak to me of many truths I needed to hear. I only hope I can remember all of them in relating them today.
I got up yesterday morning knowing that before the end of the day, I needed to rake the yard to get all the sticks out of the way so I could mow. I don’t usually put this much effort into preparing the yard for mowing because, well, it’s hard work. My yard is much bigger than I like when it comes to yard work, though I think it’s perfectly adequate for town life any other day. So I guess since I already mentioned that I usually do not put this much work into the yard, you can rightly deduce that my yard was quite a mess. I’ve lived here for over four years and had never raked the yard in it’s entirety. I was totally cool with the disheveled look of leaves everywhere, which come with the territory here. Five tall oaks literally surround my house and then there is random foliage everywhere in the back. I could make a pile as tall as Babel if I wanted to. But I don’t, and never have, so I did the minimal work necessary to ensure that the front and back door were accessible. I’m not lazy, it’s just too much work! I always figured, “…to dust you will return.” Keeps the worms busy.
So yesterday, I had to tackle this nasty mess of a yard because for the first time in four years, it really bugged me. Well, not really. What bugged me was the fact that every summer for the past four years, I’ve bought a new lawnmower because they keep breaking on me. Finally it dawned on me: maybe it’s the terrain. Maybe the sticks and dirt are screwing up the lawnmower. Or maybe it’s because I let the grass grow just long enough to annoy the guy who puts out weed notices before I get out the mower. Maybe the mower can’t handle all the overgrown wildness. So, I submitted to all this overwhelming evidence convicting me and decided to take care of the yard this year, and even bought a lawnmower that will only screw up if I screw it up. It’s a rotary mower, which means I don’t have to mess with gas, oil or oil filters, or those stupid cables that get it working. All I have to do is push it. And since I decided to finally do the yard justice, I had to first rake it. So I started out, and immediately realized what a tough task it was going to be. Four years of sticks built up and pushed to the outer edge of the yard required some major muscle. It would not have been so hard, except that there was also this massive entanglement of weeds to rake through to get the sticks into a pile that could then be moved to a fire. Oh my aching back! As I was raking the front yard, the Spirit began speaking to me and revealed this truth: this is a lot like what our lives are like. It’s totally a human approach to dealing with things. We brush things off to the side and let them accumulate in a place that isn’t as visible and won’t get in the way while we get on with life. The problem is, the junk doesn’t go anywhere, it just sits there and builds up over time and will eventually have to be dealt with. And the longer it sits, the more embedded it becomes and the harder it is to remove, and to aggravate the process of dealing with it when you eventually get around to it is this massive entanglement that’s grown up around it. Oh my! What work!
I got through the front yard, not without difficulty but still relatively easily compared to what awaited me in the back. Halfway around the house, I realized that I would have to set my face like flint and press on to get the job done. The closer I got to the backyard, the less I like this job, but I knew I had to press on and press on I did.
I should mention here that I had enlisted both kids for this work. For the first time in their royal lives, I told the prince and princess they were going to help me. I taught my son yesterday that there should never be a gentleman sitting around watching while a lady works. If she rolls up her sleeves, then buddy, you had better be one step ahead of her making her job a little lighter. He did great for a while, but right after I set my face like flint in order to not be overwhelmed by the size of the backyard awaiting me, the pressure got to him. I’m pretty sure it was the devil trying to get me to throw up my hands in defeat, but I was determined to finish it. He wasn’t, and he threw a huge fit, ran away (ran around the block and came back home) and broke my heart with his hateful words. But I kept my calm while he ranted, prayed while he ran, and fell apart the moment he wasn’t looking anymore. I looked to Heaven and cried, “He is your son and I’m done dealing with this today! If you won’t help me with the yard, deal with your son! …And please protect him because I am not running after him this time” Yes, I embarrassingly admit I said that to the Lord. And then I apologized for not being humble. Emotions were high and I was still hating yard work, even though I had committed myself to finishing it.
My son eventually came back and apologized. He told me he was tired of the work and it was making him angry. I get that. I totally get that. Nothing makes me boil more than yard work, truly. Well, yard work and fighting with my kids. While he was throwing his tantrum, my daughter was inside screaming for me to help her do something that I had asked her to do. She made it very clear she was either incapable or unwilling to do it without my help. I ended up doing it myself. I went back outside and the Spirit began to speak again. Through my children, I learned that there will be those who come alongside you to help who cannot keep up with the work. They will desert you or overwhelm you with their endless need for help. In other words, they will distract you. You have to remain committed to the work and press on even as these things come at you. Life will continue to go on around you and your work for God. It doesn’t stop and it doesn’t get easier. In reality, you can be assured it will get much harder. You simply have to deal with it and continue the job. There is no other option.
As I moved into the backyard, the mere size of it tempted me to quit. Where do I start? How will I ever get this done? Doubt and fear and anxiety attacked me all at once. I was sinking into despair very quickly, when I realized this was an attack. An anxiety attack. Deal with it! So, I began to rake in big circles with the pile in the middle, and a little at a time, parts of the yard were finished. I could not have handled it had I kept my eye on the big picture. So instead I focused on small chunks of the yard and accomplished each one, feeling success instead of defeat as the yard slowly became more appealing to the eyes. This must be why God, in His infinite mercy, reveals to us a little at a time. He only asks that we worry about and focus on today. We would literally be paralyzed and unable to move in any direction if we saw the entirety of His work. He instead gives us a little of it at a time, and strengthens us to handle it. Encourages us to finish it, and then moves us on into something that is usually bigger and harder. But by then, we are prepared for it. How ingenious!
Midway through the back yard, which was hours into the work, my son left with my friend Amy and I was left with my princess as my only help. This part hurt. My lighter died, so instead of burning small piles, it became necessary to pick up the small piles and take them to the big pile. Oh dear me, you would have thought she was going to die! She whined and complained, asked hundreds of questions that could have been answered by some good old common sense, and otherwise drove me nuts with her inability to do anything on her own, including think! I was numb from muscle pain, aggravated by the high-pitched screeching was having a hard enough time thinking for myself, much less for her too. I began to pray, and things got really ironic. I looked at her and saw myself … this is what I do to God. All the time. I’m a whiny princess who has a million questions and doubts that I can do anything right without constant reassurance. I laughed and cried at this revelation. I had been doing this to God all day. Well, okay, all my life really.
With three-fourths of the yard done, I was becoming weary. It had been a long day. I literally raked for seven hours, minus a short break to fight with my son, a moment to drink a glass of water, and about half an hour to talk with a friend. So about six hours of raking time. My muscles were torn to shreds, my heart was torn to shreds, and I was so close to being done. Not the yard, me. I was close to calling it quits when the Spirit spoke again. This is it: the moment when most people call it “good enough” and walk away without finishing the work. To finish means pushing yourselves past the limits. To quit now seems like an act of mercy on yourself. After all, you’ve done so much already, and it looks great! The effects of your work are clearly visible, and what’s left of the mess can’t possibly make that much of a difference. You’ve done well. Walk away. Oh, it sounded so good! But I knew in my spirit, I had come too far to quit. There were still sticks to be raked and those sticks could still damage my lawnmower. Sure, I had done an amazing job and spent myself far beyond what I normally would have. Sure, it was “good enough.” But the job wasn’t done. I hadn’t given it my all. I hadn’t finished yet. The last fourth of the yard was literally the hardest physical demand I had ever faced and if it weren’t for the spiritual lesson being learned in it, I would have quit. I had never in my life persevered through something so rigorous to my flesh. Even fasting had never hurt this much. And the Spirit kept saying, “This is perseverance. This is continuing when everything in you wants to quit, and everyone else had quit on you. This is the moment that truly matters. The finish line is ahead, keep going!” I cried out in pain and frustration, I paused to simply breathe, I raked on. I stopped, looked at the yard that was left, felt desperately far from done and encouraged myself to keep going. When I finally finished raking the yard, I surveyed the yard in satisfaction, and then realized there was more work to be done. Everyone had quit on me, remember? And their work had to be done still. I straightened myself up and pushed on. Finish it. Finish all of it. You can do this! And finally, it was finished!
I woke up this morning in pain. I ache in places I didn’t know you could ache in. Muscles I have not used in years are screaming at me every time I move. It was worth it. I looked outside this morning and realized it had rained last night. There are sticks all over my yard again. Yep, I’m going to have to do it again. I’m not exactly excited about it, but I have atleast embraced the responsibility. And I have learned much in it. And each time I rake the yard, I will remember these things, which will serve me well the rest of my life. I am done taking the easy road, done giving up when everyone else does, done complaining and whining when things get tough, and done quitting when it’s “good enough.” Thank you, Lord, for your Spirit’s guidance.