The winds of change are blowing at the end of a wonderful summer that’s been filled with camping trips, family vacations, playdates at the park, and projects at home. My husband is still looking for a full-time job, but has started teaching an adjunct class at Boise State for the fall semester. God has graciously continued to provide for our needs this past year, and we continue to wait on him to determine what next step we should take. But today I have the task of writing about something less pleasant than God’s provision.
The week before we started school I decided it was time to get our house cleaned and organized so it would be easier to focus on teaching without a giant to-do list hanging over me. I worked hard all week on the house (with a fairly miserable attitude – I’m not a fan of housework), and by Saturday all that was left was yard work. Since we’d spent a lot of time away from home this summer, the weeds had gotten out of control. We have a large play area for the kids that’s covered in bark, only you could barely see the bark through all the weeds. We’d sent the kids out to pull weeds a couple times earlier in the summer, but I knew that these weeds would need to be dug up, which would be too hard for the kids to do on such dry ground. My husband was preparing to teach his class, so the task fell to me. Oh joy.
I headed out in the hot sun and started in the flower garden while the kids picked berries from our enormous blackberry bush. Soon they had filled their quota and left me to finish my gargantuan task. I looked around at all the weeds and to say that I was discouraged is an understatement. I went after the biggest weeds first, trying not to let the dandelion seeds blow everywhere, but realizing that it was too late for that. More weeds would surely follow. Some of the weeds were several feet high and had deep roots. They’d obviously been there awhile, or perhaps the kids had pulled off the tops while the roots had remained. As sweat poured down my face, I looked around at all that still needed to be done and began to grumble about how unfair it was that I was having to do all this work by myself. You see, I fall into the category of “misery loves company,” so if I’m miserable or working hard, I’d appreciate it if everyone else would join me. Or suffer my wrath.
It was at this point that the Holy Spirit began to ask me some rather penetrating questions. “Did your children do what you asked them to do, which was to pick the berries?” Yes. “Did your husband and kids help clean the house this week?” Yes. “Is everyone else doing what they’re supposed to be doing?” (Gulp.) Yes. “Then why are you grumbling about the task that’s fallen to you?” Ouch. It was then that God began to reveal to me that my attitude toward my work was a big, ugly weed. If I perceive that others are playing when I’m hard at work, I get hung up on fairness and start griping at God and my family. After one such gripe, God totally shellacked me at Bible Study and I had to go crawling to my husband to ask for forgiveness. This “attitude weed” had grown deep, and while I physically labored at dealing with the weeds in my yard, the Holy Spirit began the process of yanking my inner weeds.
The root of my ugly attitude weed came down to two issues: 1. Trust – I need to trust God that the work he gives me is good and for my benefit, and I need to trust him to hold others accountable for their work. If I’m working hard while someone else is taking a break or while no one is noticing my efforts, my focus should be on working for the Lord, not for men (Col. 3:23). 2. Self-focus – We live in a society that’s all about finding the easy road. Got a problem? There’s an app for that. We have come to believe the lies of marketing that tell us we deserve the best. My generation can likely recall a previous McDonald’s slogan, “You deserve a break today.” The truth is, we don’t deserve breaks. Yes, we should take them when we need them, but we are not entitled to an easy life! Sometimes life is just plain hard work. When we become self-focused and buy into the lie that “the world is here to serve me,” we set ourselves up to be miserable and dissatisfied with our lot in life. If God chooses to make my life more challenging than yours, that’s his prerogative.
God also reminded me that my kids will learn way more about life and God by observing my attitudes than from any subject I teach them for school. Yes, their education matters, but their character matters so much more! And it’s the issue of character – for myself and my kids – that God’s chosen as his priority for this school year. When we don’t deal with the ugly attitude weeds in our lives, they not only become so deeply rooted that they’re difficult to remove, they develop seeds that settle on other soil and begin to spread everywhere. As a mom, I’m keenly aware that whatever negative attitudes I harbor will likely develop in my kids. And guess who doesn’t like to do housework alone? Guess who grumbles at pulling weeds?
So this year our home school will include an additional requirement: volunteer work. As I allow the Holy Spirit access to my weeds, I’m also aware of my responsibility to do some attitude weeding with my kids this year. And the antidote for self-focus is servanthood. (The idea of servanthood is so foreign to our culture that the word comes up in spell check! Only on Bible-related sites can you even find the word.) We began last week by doing some weeding at the church where I had noticed the Sunday before there was an overgrowth of morning glories. Boy did the kids grumble! “You mean they don’t even know we’re doing this? We’re not going to get paid? Why should we do this when it’s not our job?” But as the three of us pulled weeds in the 90 degree heat for 45 minutes, I told them about how Jesus washed the disciples’ feet and instructed us to serve others in the same way. I talked to them about the Body of Christ, and how we all work together to support the church. We talked about how much the kids enjoy the children’s ministries at church, and how we need to be willing to serve and not just come to church to be served. I also challenged them to memorize Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” Yes, I could have had these discussions in the comfort of our air-conditioned home, but chances are it would mean little to them. Sometimes it’s necessary to participate in an outward expression of the inner truths we’re learning. Now every time we go by our weed-free bushes, they have a visible reminder of what it means to serve in the church and follow Christ’s example.
Weed pulling is hard work, but the reward is uncovered beauty. My yard and the church’s bushes look more lovely when they’re not covered in weeds. As Christians, our lives will be more beautiful and attractive to non-believers when we’re willing to do the hard work of surrendering to Christ everything that does not bring him glory. One last thought: Smaller weeds are easier to pull than bigger ones. If God’s challenging you to pull an ugly attitude weed today, don’t put it off until later when it’s grown larger and spread to others. Let’s give God our weeds in exchange for his blessings.