Like many children, I was enamored with loud machines and vehicles that seemed capable of feats beyond my understanding. My own two-year-old daughter, Anna Glory, runs to the window every Monday morning yelling, “Gawbage twuck!! Hi Gawbage twuck!”
For me, it was the lawn mower. What was this machine that chewed up and ate our grass—a machine that only my father seemed capable of operating safely? Starting around age seven, I begged my dad to let me mow the lawn. “Nope, you’re too young, it’s not safe.” Finally, when I was ten, he relented. I was ecstatic—certain I was about to experience something on par with being a fighter pilot or underwater welder.
After getting me set up and some brief instructions about not killing my mother’s flowers, I was left to it. As you can imagine, it only took two or three passes for the letdown to hit. My curiosity had been more than satisfied. I stopped, the mower shut down, and I went inside to do whatever. My dad was surprised to see me so soon, “What are you doing?”
“What do you mean you’re done?”
“Well, I tried it out and it was cool but I don’t need to do any more.”
“No – you need to go back out and finish the job.”
Not everyone can pinpoint the exact moment in time when his or her love-hate relationship with yard maintenance began. But for me, it was then. Every spring and summer the battle ensues now as a homeowner myself. I still enjoy the thrill of power tools and anything with a loud motor. But the work of mowing, edging, trimming and pruning are not my favorites. I have been challenging myself though, through the truth of scripture, to connect this work with God’s character. If I could go back in time and give a spiritual pep talk to my 10-year-old self, I might start by saying, “You know, it’s possible we are most like God when we’re doing this kind of work!”
Early in Genesis 1 and 2, we encounter a Creator God who is a gardener, a cultivator of the earth and its resources. He is literally a God with dirt under His fingernails.
God plants a garden, puts us in there, and says, “Now you be a gardener, too.” Not unlike my dad, God invites us into tasks He is clearly capable of Himself: He names the land and the sky, and then gives Adam the task of naming the animals. God is a God of work, a Creator who goes out of His way to show us that work is not a curse.
God is a God of work, a Creator who goes out of His way to show us that work is not a curse.
Long before Adam and Eve give in to temptation and are removed from the garden, work is present as a part of paradise! God could have spoken and created everything we see around us today: skyscrapers and chewing gum, vaccines and cooking pots, lawn mowers and ‘gawbage twucks.’ Instead, He invites us to be co-cultivators with Him in creation. Certainly there are thorns and thistles, challenges and very real problems in our work. But it should inspire and give us hope that it is in engaging and tackling our work that we are reflecting our creator, God.
This summer, join me in the spiritual practice of cutting grass, pruning rhododendrons, and picking tomatoes. As you do, let it be a reminder of the God who spoke creation into being, rolled up His sleeves, knelt in the dirt, and then said, “Come and do this with me!”
Ryan Beattie is the former Director of Young Adult Ministries now overseeing the development of “Faith+Work+Culture Ministries” at BelPres.