(I might have added “swing” to the title, but I don’t have a front porch swing so I can’t really say that.)
I planned on mowing the grass on Wednesday, partly because I love mowing and partly because it would have been two weeks since I had mowed it last, and it was time. But we had a freak thunder, lightening storm late Tuesday night, or rather Wednesday morning and the grass was just to wet to mow.
So I set my alarm (really to watch le Tour de France) for 5:30 this morning, and I was out mowing shortly after 7. (Before watching any of the tour, I knew if I started watching I just wouldn’t get the mowing done early enough.) It is forecast to be 99 degrees today, and I knew I had to be out there early, or it would be too hot.
After mowing I putzed around a little, pulling weeds, making sure my flower beds were as gorgeous as possible. As I was working I was fretting a bit about my backyard. Last year my backyard had a back hoe in it and a big, huge, ugly hole. This year it’s still patchy because of that. And we haven’t fertilized it in forever and it desperately needs to be done, as our neighbors prefer the “natural” look of weeds, and in Nebraska the wind blows something fierce all the time.
I consoled myself with the thought that no one really sees it, except the neighbors, and really their yards are just as bad. Actually mine looks good in comparison. I planned on just focusing for right now on the front yard. I pulled more weeds, and can I just say, I really, really don’t like ivy. Not at all. Common mallow could really be uncommon, and I’d be much, much happier if it wasn’t in my yard.
I found myself musing about the importance of keeping things pretty when I know other people will see it. If it’s out in the open it needs to look nice, so people will think well of me. But if it is hidden away in the back yard, no one knows, no one sees and my life is good.
How like my heart. I want other people to think well of me, to like me, so I spend an inordinate amount of time making sure my external life looks good. I behave in a socially acceptable way. I make sure my clothes are clean, my hair is combed, my shoes are cute so I feel good about me.
What if I spent the same amount of time or more working on the inner self. The self no one sees. The self of my back yard, so to speak. What if I realized I can have an extraordinarily beautiful front yard (exterior), but if I have a yucky heart and attitude it will all be for naught? I know that mentally but it seems to keep flying from my heart. Why is it I can make sure I’m up to watch le tour de France by 5:30 every morning in July, but I can’t wake up that early to spend time with Jesus the other 11 months of the year?
I have discovered we judge other people’s external by our internals and our externals. We make judgements on their behaviour based on our behavior (or what our behaviour should be) in a way that makes us look better. If my actions seem to me to be better than yours, I’ll judge you based on my actions. If my actions aren’t better, but I know the truth of how you should behave, I’ll judge you based on my internals. Either way we’re wrong.
Jesus said in Matthew 7, “Don’t judge or you will be judged. For with the measure you use, it will be used against you.” (My own paraphrase. I firmly believe Jesus is not saying we are not to judge, because we are and we do it all day, every day. But we are to have one measuring rod for all judgement. We can’t judge ourselves one way and the man next door another.
Jesus also commands us to take the plank out of our own eyes, so we can clearly see the splinter in someone else’s eye. I don’t know about you, but it’s a lot harder and more painful to remove the plank in my own eye, than it is to remove the tiny splinter from your eye.
But that is what I’m commanded to do. And what you’re commanded to do. It isn’t until we get passed the plank in our eyes, and the splinter in your eyes that we can really love each other as we are commanded to do. I can’t love you, and you can’t love me if we’re focused on the splinters.
If we’re focused on the weeds in someone else’s life, we can’t see to pull the weeds in our own heart. I only have control over the weeds in my heart, as you only have control over those in your own heart. So let’s agree to pull our own heart weeds, and lovingly point out some weeds in each other’s lives as Jesus would do.
It’s not that Jesus said to never tell someone of a splinter or a weed. Actually Scripture is quite clear on that point, we are to lovingly tell someone when they’re missing the boat. But we are to first make sure we aren’t struggling with the same weed, and we are to lovingly confront in a manner that desires full restoration. We aren’t to lord it over someone, we aren’t belittle them, we are to love them. And loving them means we have to do hard things.
I have one patch in the front that is weeds, but just that one. I want to be real but not too real. I want people to know that while my external front yard might look nice, I’m not perfect. But I don’t necessarily want them to see the mess that my life often seems to be (at least to me). I do have plans for this patch that for years has been nothing short of ugly.
Just like I have plans for the ugly portions of my heart. I plan on submitting to the Gardener as He pulls the noxious weeds. I’ll wait patiently while He adds some fertilizer. I’ll dance in His sunshine, sing in His rain.