I like those nice neat lines for two reasons. They look neat when I'm done, and when I'm in the process of mowing, they give me guidelines to follow; I can see where I've already been. This morning, as the lawn mower was bouncing crazily over the roughest spots, and I tried to keep my lines straight, it struck me how much mowing my back yard has in common with my walk with God.
We have trees in the back of our lot. They are not evenly spaced by any stretch of the imagination, but they make excellent focal points nonetheless. When I mowed uphill toward the back of the lot, I could fix my eyes on a tree, and no matter how crazily the mower was bouncing around, I could easily keep my lines straight. Going downhill towards the house was easy going. The mower still bounced over the rough spots, but it was downhill, and I felt like I could relax a little, at least enough to check on the kids playing on the back deck. The problem came when I reached the bottom and turned around to go back up again. The lines going up were as perfectly straight as I could make them, but the lines coming down were completely uneven and crooked, because I didn't have a focal point.
So I tried a new strategy. Going uphill, I picked a tree to keep my eyes on, and going downhill I found something on the house or deck to focus on. That worked pretty well, but looking back up from the bottom of the hill, again I could see crooked lines. This time, the crooked lines were caused not by not having a focal point, but by taking my eyes off of the focal point to check on the kids or to throw a stick or rock out of my way.
I was reminded of Philippians 3:12-14. "Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."
Now don't get me wrong! When mowing the lawn, it is important to throw sticks and rocks out of the way, and to check on the kids every now and then. It's even okay to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine, and to relax a little on those downhill slopes. Those actions, on the other hand, made me realize how often I focus too much on the things of this world and neglect "pressing on toward the goal."
I spend a lot of time thinking about things like how to raise my children properly, how to teach them, what we are eating, and what needs done around the house, which are all good and necessary things to consider. However, I should not be focusing on those issues to the point where I no longer have time or energy to read my Bible, pray, and "strain toward what is ahead".
It is hard work mowing uphill, and it is hard work following God's ways, but they are both made easier by keeping my focus in the proper place and on the right thing. Often my walk with God is comfortable and easy, as is mowing downhill, but when I look back, I find that I have neglected something, or become complacent about something I shouldn't have.
I need to apply these lessons I've learned today about mowing my back yard to my daily life, and do as Hebrews 12:2 says: "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."
When my eyes are fixed on Him, it doesn't matter how rough the ground is beneath my feet. When my eyes are fixed on Him, the lines of my life will be as perfectly straight as I can make them.
Just like my back yard.