Driveway, Weeds and Outcomes
Last night I sat down on my driveway. The cool air felt good on my feverish forehead as I round the second week of a cold. The weeds in the cracks that ran up and down the long stretch of cement were growing tall and spreading out wide like tentacles. So I grabbed a sharp knife, a garbage bag and sat myself down to tackle the job. At first, I felt relaxed and refreshed by the cool air, the sun setting behind pink, outlined clouds and the quiet street with my dog resting her head on the back of the couch watching me from inside. But then, slowly, I began to feel a bit self-conscious. "None of my other neighbours do this," I thought. "They are going to think I'm strange. What will I say to the dog walkers coming my way? What kind of clever joke can I make? Quite a weed harvest!" I'll say. "No, that sounds lame . . " And without realizing it, I was 1/3 done the weed pulling having spent my time measuring the outcome of possible conversations that would happen.
I shook my head. Ridiculous.
Starting fresh on the 2/3's remaining driveway, I began to enjoy the cool air, prayed for my neighbours and reflected on a book that I had read this past week. I calmed right down and enjoyed the sunset-weed-pulling-driveway-sitting evening. Later, as I was sweeping up the mess, one of my 80 year old neighbours was driving home and as he passed by, he pulled his car over and parked. He got out and I took off my gloves and walked over to greet him. He had just been out driving the same walking route that he and his wife used to walk before she passed away a few years ago. He expressed, "Sometimes, it's just so lonely." I gave him a hug and we talked for awhile. He's a good friend of both Randy and I and we loved his wife as well. He is one of the most honest, genuine people I've ever met and he says what he's feeling without shame. I admire that about him. I thought back to my self-conscious "what clever things can I say to my neighbours when they walk by?" thoughts from earlier on, and shook my head again.
In reading John chapter 8 this week, I was impressed with the bold words of Jesus. He was being questioned and people were trying to figure him out. He spoke clearly, boldly and in obedience to His Father. He didn't measure the outcome of his words, or pick ones that would warm the crowd to himself. He said truthful things and as we know from the rest of Scripture, he was without sin, speaking and acting in full obedience to God. He didn't do what I had done and imagined the most clever way to "look good" or "look impressive" or "justify actions" as I did on my driveway that evening. He just spoke clearly, honestly, in obedience to God.
Imagine the freedom we could experience if we lived that way. Imagine not caring what people think of you but only caring about pleasing God. Imagine getting used to people not liking what you say, maybe having some enemies, some people who hate you. Is that possible? Should we, as Christians, as followers of Jesus have enemies? Here's what Jesus says about that in John 15, "If you find the godless world is hating you, remember it got its start hating me. If you lived on the world's terms, the world would love you as one of its own. But since I picked you to live on God's terms and no longer on the world's terms, the world is going to hate you."
I don't know what that means for you, but if you're like me, I imagine there are areas in your life that get measured. We measure the outcome. We carefully plan conversations or scenarios–not to live in obedience to God–but to save our own skins, to impress, to appear a certain way. To live pretentiously in order to gain favour from man rather than God.
God's ways, much like my neighbours honest comment about his own loneliness, are true. They don't need pre-work or after-thought . . . God's ways are direct. They require obedience and at the core, they are about love.
May we be people who live in the fresh air of God's rest, his leading, his straight-forward ways and the core truth that nothing, nothing in this world will satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts like God's love will. Thank God - literally!