“Get out of my way, I’ve got a machete!”
On return from a recent holiday, I almost found myself uttering this threat to all and sundry. Why, you might ask. Allow me to explain.
This summer, we took a week off very late in the season. Our visit to Shetland was wonderful, but as we set off, I carried with me a nagging worry. I hadn’t cut the grass for two weeks and it was already very long. On my return, I was met by a scene reminiscent of my visions of the Garden of Eden. Abundant growth everywhere. Especially the lawn, which swept out before me like an undulating green ocean. To make matters worse, I’d returned during the wettest week of the year in Perthshire. Have you tried to cut wet grass? It’s not advisable. And it’s especially inadvisable when the grass has been treated with a Late Summer/ Early Autumn feeding by Greenthumb (a grass feeding and maintenance company I retain). So I had to wait until the end of the third week since the previous cut.
In Perthshire, that’s a long time.
A machete may be an exaggeration, but I did have to raise the height of the lawnmower further than ever before. It was the only way to make a first cut of the crop. That word “crop” is an interesting one. Nowadays, it’s associated with the annual ingathering of cereal or other plants, but it can also mean “the top of a flower or plant.”
The lawnmower was soon filled with an overflowing crop. In fact, the crops choked the lawnmower every five minutes. What would normally take me an hour took me nearly four hours instead. I had an abundant crop of grass. As I trudged back to the house after my battle in the garden, my attention turned to a second-hand book I had received for my birthday from my sister-in-law.
The Chemistry of Crop Production. She certainly recognises my geekiness.
What produces long grass?
Water, air, light and heat, ash, lime, potash, phosphate, nitrogen and microbes combine with the phenomenon of photosynthesis so that the plants’ chlorophyll absorbs the energy of light and the plant’s protoplasm so that it separates carbon dioxide from the air into carbon and oxygen.
Exhausted, I sank into an armchair and reflected on my experience and my reading.
IN SEASON, GRASS DOES WHAT COMES NATURALLY – IT GROWS
Grass produces more grass. It’s inevitable. The mystery of growth is a creative miracle: converting chemical matter into completely different matter. The principle of a seed falling into the ground works out in grass too—rye grass being an example of seed-born grasses. It must, in other words, produce “fruit”. This is the mystery of the Christian experience, that by “abiding in Christ” we will produce “fruit”. Jesus said that “Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit” (John 15.6).
There is one critical element to this: who we are is a consequence of who we have become.
When we are linked to Jesus in the new birth, fruit will be displayed in our lives. The growth is supernatural. It is in our character as well as our deeds that we will see the imperative of a changed life.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
MULTIPLE CUTS ARE BETTER THAN A “ONCE ONLY” CUT
The Vinedresser of Jesus’ teaching in John 15 demonstrates his patience by gradually paring down the unfruitful branches. The unproductive fruit, which saps energy from the plant and hinders other fruit forming, needs to be cut off. In my own life, I’ve discovered that the painful process of paring down unfruitful areas of life must continue without check. Those things which hinder my ability to be fruitful need to go. In truth, the Greek word for “prune” (kathairō) often means “clean”. Its root is similar to the adjective translated “clean” in John 15.3. You may remember Jesus’ words to his disciples.
Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.
As I cleaned the lawnmower, wiping it down and pushing it into the shed, I thought about the way the Lord has worked in my life. The constant practice of reflection, confession, repentance and striving to maintain a clean life is very much like the continual passes of a lawnmower on stubborn, resistant grass.
It is the Lord who makes me clean, who “crops” me as I submit to his will in my life.
GRASS NEVER GETS SHORTER BY ITSELF
As I stared out of the rain-streaked windows into the leaden skies, I knew the grass wasn’t going to cut itself. It wouldn’t get shorter as a result of my earnest display of hoping! It was going to be a mammoth task, so when that first sunny, windy day arrived, it wasn’t just the washing that had to go outdoors, but me too. In my wellies! It wouldn’t be my favourite day of the year, but then so much of life is filled with must-do tasks.
During my life, I’ve experienced many “head-down” days. Discipline isn’t a favourite word among many. We often believe it entails a loss of freedom, but in reality, discipline is not a bad thing. We kick against it sometimes because it forces us to confront challenging issues in our lives, but the results of a disciplined life are clear to see. Spiritual disciplines are the simple habits and practices that help us to develop, grow, and strengthen our faith in Christ. They are things like prayer, Bible study, meditation, confession, solitude, worship, and celebration. These things don’t bring us salvation and they aren’t a recipe for God’s approval. Instead, they are practices that help us develop a lasting faith, a strong faith, and a faith that bears fruit in our daily lives. The disciplines don’t have power in themselves; they help to develop and strengthen our faith in our Lord who is powerful over all things.
“Must-do” things aren’t millstones around our necks. Quite the opposite. If we discipline ourselves to seek the Lord in all we do—and include habits which help us to know and serve our God better—then we will see results that are often rewarding and reassuring.
We will witness a lasting crop. A fruitful harvest.
So when you are next faced with a lawn that needs cutting, be encouraged. You may not want to cut it, but the discipline will do you good. Spiritual disciplines do us good.
They produce fruit.
They produce a wonderful, healthy crop.