Ari and I mowed the lawn yesterday. We have had weeks of rain and high humidity. The grass here near the coast of Oregon grows even in the winter. Our grass was tall and tangled, and even though it had not rained for a day, it was covered with dew. The wet grass quickly made the bag heavy and the mower hard to push.
Our grandson, Ari, age seven, asked if he could help. My first answer was “No”, but he kept asking so I relented despite the difficulties. His first assignment was to move the toys, chairs, and soccer net off the grass so I could mow. Soon, however, he was asking to push the mower. The bag was nearly full, so he was unable to move the mower no matter how hard he pushed. I reached around from behind with one hand and gave him a little help. With three hands, we mowed a crooked swath through the lawn. When it came time to mow the front, I invited him to mow the slightly sloping lawn where the grass was shorter. He worked hard, even pushing the mower back up the incline, but he was soon tired and went off to ride his bike.
To be honest, I could have finished sooner if Ari had not helped. He struggled to mow in straight lines, so I had to go back over some of the places he missed. And in the growing dusk, it was hard to see every missed strip, so today the lawn looks a little ragged. But Ari was delighted that he and grandpa had mowed the lawn together.
I think this story explains a lot of the raggedness of the church. God has invited all of us to work with him, but we are much like Ari—not quite strong enough, not quite steady enough. We often need a third hand on the mower. Sometimes the lines are crooked no matter how hard we try to go straight. And certainly, God could do much of His work better and faster without us.
The real job yesterday was not about the lawn. It was about Ari and I spending time together. It was about Ari learning and growing. It was sweat on my wrinkles and sweat on his freckles. It was about love.
The same is true of God’s work with us. Certainly, the work of the kingdom is important, but even more important is working together with our heavenly Father. Jesus said that He did whatever he saw His father doing (John 5:19). In the life Jesus, we see His disciples mow a crooked line, get rebuked for unbelief, and get confronted about their pride. Yet again and again Jesus invites them to help.
We must be patient with the raggedness of the church. Like good parents, pastors must resist the temptation to do everything themselves. And when we see that growing in relationship and maturity is the real point, we should be quick to ask God, “Can I help?” We can trust that when things won’t move, a third hand on the mower will get things going.