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Monday, May 27, 2013

How's your Lawn?

Unwatered or Unnatural?

I like PhoenixArizona in general, actually.  I have visited many times over the years, especially since I have family living there.  In fact, this last trip down was for the memorial service of a dear uncle who had passed away.  I have special memories, favorite places, favorite things to do and always try to discover something new as well.  (Don’t worry, I’m not going to discuss all of those, you can read on!)  So I went on an early morning walk   (one of my favorite desert things to do) and noticed a couple of things that had me thinking.  One was a sad thing, as I noticed that even though Phoenix has many places they try to make the city look nice and artistic, there always seems to be trash strewn along the roads and sidewalks.  New York is like that, too.  The other thing I noticed probably because in the upcoming volume of the divorce book, I have several reflections based on Jesus’ soils parable, and it got me to thinking about some things I might share with you.

As I fly or drive into Phoenix, I am always struck by the idea that millions of people choose to live together in a place where there is very little water naturally available. Most of it comes in through canals directed to various places, ultimately coming out of the mountains to the north.  Almost anything can grow in this area, as long as you irrigate.  So walking along, I would see three kinds of yards.  The first are the ones that are simply desert oriented.  These are yard where people know that the grass found in yards elsewhere does not survive in the desert on its own, so they create yards that are more desert friendly, with pea gravel, cactus and aloe.  The rest of the yard is simply a sandy desert theme.  But most places like having yards with grass.  I would walk by some of the nicest yards, well watered, well kept, that look really great.  But right next door may be a yard that has reverted to sand, as those owners have neglected the needed watering.  As I proceed from here, you may want to take what I share as a metaphor for your own life, or maybe for your marriage or divorce, because those were the images that came to my mind as I reflected on what I saw.

The first kind of yard, the desert theme, can be an interesting approach to things.  Those owners simply step back and take a realistic look at their situation and seem to decide a couple of things.  I think they must remind themselves that they chose the desert as the place they wanted to live, so why bother to try to create something that belongs to some other climate in the first place?  And the second thing I think they do is simply take a realistic look at things:  grass isn't part of this environment, what is?  What things belong here and I enjoy?  How can I simply take the reality of the desert to create something I enjoy for my yard?  And then they decorate with some lovely cactus flowers and rough stone and create something pretty nice.  I think married couples can create good marriages doing that as well, by simply not trying to be something they aren't  taking a realistic look at themselves and their life circumstances, and then building their marriage based on the realities of their lives.  At least, it sure makes sense to me, doesn't it YOU? 

Others, like the lush green yards, instead of looking merely at what is, also look at what could be with a little effort and imagination, and so go about doing the things to make something more.  They put in irrigation pipes, they set timers to flood the lawn, they plant orange trees and azaleas, and end up with a pretty scenic spot out of the deal.  But it requires a lot of intentional planning, thought and effort.  And some marriages thrive doing the same thing.

But what I noticed most was the contrast between the yard owners who had let theirs go, and their neighbors with lush green grass.  The title of this blog captures the conclusions I came to in my reflections.  The first one is that in order to have a quality lawn in Phoenix, you have to commit and be diligent to keep up the watering and the other tasks of lawn maintenance such as edging and mowing.  Without that nurturing care, the lawn dies.  And it appears to die very quickly under the scorching heat, and soon reverts to nothing but desert sand.  It seems to me that the same is true for us, as individuals and as couples.  If we are going to be people of high character, it requires diligence on our part, because we can quickly decay and revert to something less.  I know this is true of our spiritual beings.  Our understanding of God and our relationship with Him is not something that just goes on its own, it is something we must nurture and cultivate, if we want that area of our lives to prosper.  If we want our marriages to thrive like the lush green of a healthy lawn, we need to be willing to be diligent to keep up the things that make for a good marriage: time together, good communication, consideration, that sort of thing.  If you are divorced, then you may recognize here how your marriage had gotten to the desolate point it had reached, as you reflect on the care not provided.

But then I also thought more along the lines of the people with the first yard.  The yards are gorgeous, and I grant that the desert is extremely fertile when things are watered, but there is also a certain artificial-ness to it all.  In rain forests and jungles, there is no need to try to make things grow…plants grow and grow and grow all by themselves!  In those locations, the issue is more about how to keep them from taking over!  So there is a sense in which the green yard people in the desert are trying to make their places something they are not!  And they do it for appearance’s sake, of course, they want their places to look nice.  But even if they make the yard nice and plush, the truth is, that is NOT the nature of the desert…the nature of it is to be waterless, and to harbor those hardy plants the thrive under these extreme conditions.  For the lawns to truly be lush would require a change in nature, the rain patterns to shift and turn this area into a jungle which, by nature, is a thriving place for plants. 

I think sometimes individuals, Christians and marriages all make the same kind of error in their lives.  They do the things it takes to change the way things appear to make them seem wonderful, but they never really deal with the core issue of the need to change their nature.  The marriage is a sham, the individual is disingenuous, or the Christian has no depth and is hypocritical.  It isn't enough to look godly, we must be godly if we want to please Him.  The need is for a change in the nature.  The couple in the marriage need to ask God for transformation to help make it what they cannot create themselves.  Paul says in Corinthians that Christ makes in us a new creation, that the old has passed away while the new has come, as if describing a desert turned to rain forest.  (Interestingly enough, many deserts in the world were, in fact, once lush jungles and forests, until nature changed.) 

So does any of this resonate with anything in your life?  I know that in mine, there are places that need real transformation, not merely a change of appearance.  And I know that taking a realistic look at my situation makes a huge difference in what I expect and what I know I can reasonably try to create.  And I also know that the touch of God is an absolute essential for areas where my feeble attempts at beauty leave something to be desired.  Maybe the lawn of YOUR life could use some thoughtful consideration, too. 

TL:dr  In life, as in lawns, it is wise to assess ourselves and our relationships based on the realities of life, and deal with the real nature of things, not artificial constructs of our own making.

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