I mow my lawn as obsessively/compulsively as I do a number of things. One time I’ll mow in rows running north-south, the next time east-west, then diagonally one way, then diagonally the other way. Back when I lived down south and had lush St. Augustine grass, my yard would rival a major league baseball diamond. Since we moved to Iowa, I’m happy if any grass grows at all; “lush” is no longer in my lawn-related vocabulary.
Fifteen or so years ago, I can remember mowing along a perfectly straight row one hot July or August day when it occurred to me, out of the blue: “turn around and go the other way.” It wasn’t an audible voice, but it was definitely one of those attention-getter “thoughts” that have now and again over the course of my life turned out to be God’s way of communicating with me. “But that couldn’t be right,” I thought right back at the intrusive Voice, “why would God care one way or the other about which direction I mowed?” Immediately, the Voice responded, “If you won’t obey me in such a small matter as which direction to mow in, how can I trust you to obey me in something that’s really important?”
I turned around and started to mow in the other direction.
Please understand, I was not at all sure that what I was “hearing” was the Voice of God, or that God really even cared one way or the other how I cut my grass. Still, why take a chance?
I hadn’t gone more that ten feet in the other direction, than I “heard,” turn around again. I had to laugh. this was nuts! But I turned around. This silliness continued until I finished the yard. I’d mow a few feet in one direction, then turn and go in another direction as the “Thought” occurred to me. The yard was a mess of contradictory mower tracks…and I’d never had so much fun mowing in my life.
I still wouldn’t bet that God had anything to do with my mowing frenzy that hot afternoon in Alabama. But, whether God initiated my whacky, serendipitous thought process that day or not, He surely has used the experience as a parable about obedience and conversion. If my PLAN, about anything, is so set in concrete that it won’t allow for a shift or change in direction, either in response to God’s instruction or someone elses, it may easily become a kind of slavery.
I think I learned a literal lesson about conversion, or “turning,” that day. I know I learned something about the joy that may be found in obedience, even in, especially in, trivial matters.
All the speakers at the Oblate gathering this year were wonderful, and I am in awe and grateful to them for having the ability get up in front of everyone and speak from their hearts.
I am replying under the heading of conversion because not only did the lawnmower story with the distinctly mown rows hit home with me, but it made me realize that I too need to change some patterns in my life. It was great food for thought. Recently I heard a homily on conversion by Fr. George Kane. In it he spoke of how conversion is a cost. That cost being the changing of our mind. This process directs our thoughts and words toward all that is true and good. It permeates the heart and soul. It turns our minds inside out and upside down, because what God really wants through conversion is to stretch and extend us beyond ourselves.
I’m glad the story struck a chord for you. The deeper I swim into the life of faith, the more I find conversion is a constant gift. God keeps showing me new ways to draw closer to him: “Turn around! Turn right! Turn again!” I pray that your own turning will lead you to new joy. Thanks for your comments.
Where will God be when the universe ends?
** stars nor planets nor suns nor moons
** trees nor dunes nor clouds nor fields
** mountains nor rivers nor oceans nor plains
Where will God be without them?
He’ll have to start over again
And again, and again.