I planted grass seed last week. Our dear neighbor, Kingsley, who is retired and has a perfectly beautiful yard, has been helping and advising us to rehabilitate our bedraggled yard since we moved into our new home last summer. Last week he gave us a partial bag of Rye grass seed after seeding his own lawn, because, apparently, it’s the perfect time to plant grass seed here in central Texas. He’s the expert, so I followed his lead and planted the Rye.
Months ago, Kingsley gave us a schedule to follow, involving weekly and quarterly applications of various potions to produce a verdant, green lawn of such beauty that it brings a tear to the eye. But the main thing, he’s told us time and again, is water. The secret to a perfect lawn is to water it, and then water it, and then water it again. No amount of fertilizer will green up a lawn if the grass and its roots have withered away in the Texas heat.
And so, since putting down the seed, I’ve been watering my lawn every day. But it’s not as simple as that.
It may be January, but the oak tree in our front yard, confused by the weather, didn’t begin dropping its leaves until Christmas. The blanket of large, brown oak leaves creates a very effective barrier between the grass and the water I’m spraying from the hose. So before I water, I first need to gently rake away the leaves. And then I need to bag them so they don’t blow back onto the grass. This takes more time and effort than simply watering the lawn. My sweet Yorkie spends the entire time whining and frantically scratching at the kitchen window, in meltdown-mode, because I am out of reach and her little emotions Just. Can’t. Handle. It.
As I stood out there today it occurred to me (probably because it was on my mind already), that growing spiritually, cultivating a strong and vibrant walk with God, is much like cultivating a beautiful lawn. But instead of water, water, water, I need the word, the word, the word. And like the leaves, there are many obstacles to drinking in the life-giving word of God.
I need God’s word in the steady stream of daily reading. But what are the obstacles to daily reading? Sleeping in, lack of accountability, checking social media before picking up my bible. They all boil down to personal self-discipline. These are the leaves which need to be carefully, but firmly raked away so that the water of the word can daily penetrate my mind and heart first thing in the morning.
I need God’s word in the community pool of bible study with the women of my church to strengthen, deepen, and enrich my understanding of the scriptures as well as my relationship with my sisters in Christ. These classes aren’t year-round, but when they are available, I want to be there. Even still, obstacles tend to crop up. Generally, commitments or priorities may be in play here. Do I believe group bible study is important, and if so, how important is it? Whatever they may be, these leaves must be carefully examined. They are worth clearing away and bagging up so they don’t blow back in.
Finally, I need to be immersed in God’s word as it is faithfully preached in church. Surrounded by my Covenant community as we worship on Sunday morning, the word is integrated into every aspect of the service. The call to worship, the hymns we sing, the prayers we pray, the confessions and creeds are all saturated with the Word of God. And then the sermon—O, the sermon. From the pulpit our pastors minister to us, and through them our Savior washes us with the water of his word. The obstacles which interfere with attending Sunday morning worship may be the same as those which interfere with weekly bible studies. They may also include simply not guarding Sunday morning by how I’ve chosen to use Saturday. They must be raked away the moment they drop and given no opportunity to hinder gathering together on Sunday.
My purpose is not to point fingers or claim perfection. There will be unavoidable circumstances which interfere with daily reading, weekly study classes, and Sunday mornings. And I am certainly not a perfect disciple of my Lord. I fall behind. I get my priorities upside down. My point is that I want to think carefully about the choices I make which lead to either more or less engagement with God’s word whether privately or corporately. The seed of faith was sown in my heart by the Sower, not my own hand. But am I making the most of every reasonable opportunity to water that seed? Is my goal mere survival, or a full and rich experience of the life which is mine in Christ?
It’s worth pondering, raking, making a plan, and giving effort to regularly saturate the seed of faith with the water of the word. Together with the power of the Holy Spirit, carefully cultivating a heart of faith will eventually yield beauty, to the glory of God. And the thought of that brings a tear to the eye.
PS: I have no analogy for the melting-down Yorkie. She is what she is.