by Don Harris

building growth changeOur family has been doing a lot of remodeling and yard projects. I have to keep reminding myself that every project brings us closer to the end—closer to the picture that I had in mind when we first saw our beloved fixer-upper in its dilapidated state.

After years of preparing and waiting, we were finally ready to put the lawn in our backyard. We had ripped out all the old vegetation that had overgrown the yard for fifty years. We read and researched, measured and sketched, drawn and redrawn. (And redrawn and redrawn—I’m picky.) The new patio was completed and the sprinklers were in. Except for the times when the weeds got out of control, we had been looking at big brown patch of dirt for over a year. We were ready for something green.

The sod arrived on the appointed day. With the help of a few friends and a lot of hard work, there it was, *poof* instant lawn (well, sort of, but not really). Every morning after we finished, I looked out the back window and admired our wonderful new green carpet. I couldn’t help myself. It was so beautiful.

Then one morning it happened. “What’s that!” I thought, almost aloud. I had worked really hard to keep my expectations realistic for our latest project. I wasn’t expecting a weed-free, no-maintenance, year-round putting green. But from the window I could see a number of brown patches, and when I went out to investigate, I saw that something had been digging. There were holes through the sod and some of the corners of the sod were turned back.

This was almost too much to bear. “My baby! Murder! Who could do such a thing?” After some quick on-line research, I discovered that the culprit was probably a skunk, or maybe a possum or raccoon. They were digging for the grubs under the sod. There was nothing that could be done, short of blasting the area with mega chemicals.

I went out every morning and made repairs as best I could, muttering all the while and plotting my revenge. I never got the chance, though, because the problem seemed to resolve itself, at least for the time being. I think the cold weather must have killed off the grubs because the digging stopped.

The skunks had gone away for the winter, but my lawn was still not safe. The next surprise came a few weeks later. In our new grass, I saw lots of little sprouts coming up that looked like grass, but they grew much taller and faster. At first I thought it was some kind of weed. But when I pulled one out, there was a little seed at the bottom that looked suspiciously like wheat. It was wheat.

As it turned out, we had had a “Little House on the Prairie” club meeting a month or two earlier and the girls had tasted and ground wheat, and made bread. After the meeting, as they played, some wheat got scattered in the yard, which was just bare dirt at the time. Now that the seeds were getting watered, they started growing.

I was reminded of the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matthew 13:24-30), only in reverse. I found the contrast between the two stories amusing. In the parable, a man sows a field of wheat and an enemy sows weeds along with the wheat. In my case, I had a field of weeds (common grass with no crop value) and my own children had sown wheat. The one common element in both stories is that the end result was more work for the farmer.

How could I get upset? I just shook my head and laughed as I went out in the yard every few days and pulled up wheat. If I missed any shoots, I knew it would get mowed down in the spring. If they never produce seeds, they would soon be gone so I would still be rid of it, one way or another. I hoped.

As I thought about it, I realized that my experiences with my lawn weren’t isolated incidents. How often do we make our plans, do our research, gather our supplies, and get to work only to find that things don’t turn out quite the way we had planned? Sometimes we don’t even get started and we’re changing our plans “due to unforeseen circumstances.”

Of course, our reaction to these changes in circumstance vary, depending on what the issues are, what we stand to lose, and how attached we are to the original plan. When I was in architecture school, the design instructors used a phrase that has stuck with me through the years: “Don’t get married to your design.” The meaning is simple. Things will change. If you are unwilling to change your design to fit the changing circumstances, the end result will suffer.

God reserves the right to change our plans, to surprise us, and force us to rethink our course of action. The magnitude of the change can range from what cereal we’re having for breakfast to facing the consequences of a deadly disease. We give lip service and acknowledge, “Of course God has the right to do this.” But how do we respond when it really happens to us, when we are confronted with letting go of what we really want?

Sometimes we mutter and sulk, like I did with my skunk problem. We may think we’ve got things under control and we’re dealing with the issue, but in reality we’re undermining God’s work with our sour attitude and resentful spirit. Or maybe we go along with the change, and even pride ourselves on our acceptance and positive attitude. But inside we may be silently resisting, just biding our time until God gives in and we get our way in the end.

Clearly, as we look at it in the light of day, both of these options are unhealthy and ill-advised paths to take, although they may seem perfectly natural and appropriate at the time. We need to be open to the Spirit’s prompting. If we have started down either of these paths, we need to allow ourselves to be guided back to safer territory, which brings us to a third option.

Roll with the punches. Begin each day or project with the mindset that circumstances may change. We need to be willing to change with the circumstances. Failure to do this will make matters worse and bring more pain in the process. As hard as it is, acknowledge that God has a plan and we know only a small part of it. He alone can give us the grace to endure and grow through whatever He brings into our lives.

Have I told you about the two fundamental laws of the universe? 1) There is a God, and 2) You are not Him. When we allow God to direct the circumstances of our lives and accept the changes that He brings, He moves us closer to the picture of perfection that He has for us. Regardless of our present condition, God has the vision and the power to transform us into the image of His Son. We just need to let Him work.

This article won CHEA’s Support Network Best Admonition Award in 2007.
Used by permission of the author.

Don Harris and his wife, Jennifer, live in Sacramento and homeschool their three children.