Tuesday, April 7, 2009

God uses a Riding Mower

We’re coming up on our five-year anniversary living in the same house on the Eastside of Seattle. I think it bears mentioning that I’ve never lived in a single residence for this many successive years, and I think it means I’m maturing, (if by mature, I mean a more fatherly, more settled, less-schizophrenic sort of mature). The reason this figures important is that upon moving into our home, I purchased a riding lawnmower. It fulfilled a life-long dream.

So, five years ago, heading out to mow the lawn, my (then) two year old son would want to ride on my lap. Caleb would sit, nestled into the crook of my elbow, and talk up a blue streak, telling stories which were drowned out by the drone of the mower. But inevitably, after ten minutes or so, I would notice that he had stopped talking, and had begun yawning. That would be followed by his head nodding forward, or lolling backwards, and he’d be sound asleep. So I’d finish the lawn, steering with one hand and holding my sleeping son on my lap, with the other arm, and just praise, praise, praise, that my heavenly Father gave this earthly father a golden memory of mowing the lawn.

This happened regularly when Caleb was two.
And three.
And four. You get the picture. No, he doesn’t have narcolepsy.

Well, last weekend it was clear skies, and time to do the first yard clean up after the winter storms wrecked their havoc all over my suburban dreams. So I cleared branches away, and prepped the mower for the inagural run of ’09. I called over to Caleb, “Hey bud, you wanna help me mow?” Now, keep in mind, he turns seven next month. He’s, like, big.

“Sure, dad.” And he climbed up on my lap, talking a blue streak. Within a few moments, his stories turned to yawns. And then his head rested on my shoulder, and he was out.

This time, it was different.
In the first place, I was overwhelmed with the sense of love and closeness that I felt with my bud. I know it’s a cliché, but I felt that heart was filled to bursting. I took more than a few extra laps to make the most of that time with my boy. And it hit me that in some respects, I know God must feel like that with us. It’s hard to believe, I know. But it’s true. God delights over us. God’s love for us is unlimited. Everlasting. Unconditional. Which means that we don’t need to perform to please Him. Even sleeping on His lap while he mows the lawn brings Him joy. Closeness is a value to God; that’s why He didn’t remain far removed, but came close in the person of Jesus.

In the second place, what struck me was the sense of ultimate unconcern that Caleb feels on my lap, on the mower. He is lulled to sleep by the hum of the motor, the strength of his dad, and the peace that pervades knowing that he is exactly where he is supposed to be. I thought to myself, this is what Psalm 23 speaks of. Complete peace in the strength of our Shepherd. Ultimate unconcern, knowing that He has things handled, He knows how to hold me, and how to get the job done, at the same time. This is the very picture of safety and contentment, and it’s found in our Father’s arms.

In the third place, it struck me that Caleb is turning seven soon, and boys don’t want to sit on their dad’s laps forever. I don’t know exactly what age that is, but the picture of him, as a full-sized teen sitting on my lap (tipping the mower over, most likely) didn’t evoke the same kind of emotion. I want him to grow to the fullness of stature and wisdom that God has for him, and I want to cheer him to great heights of godly influence and significant contribution. But he’s my little boy right now. And I’m not ready to lose these moments. So I was thankful again, for the chance, just this once more, to have my son knock out on my lap.

My prayer for you, (it’s the same prayer for me) is this: I pray that in the midst of pace, in the heat of planning, of running, of achieving and performing, you’d pause. Draw close to the ones you love. Celebrate the moment, because the moment won’t last forever. And find some time today to climb up in your Father’s arms, let Him drive the universe, and you just rest. He’s a strong dad.

You’ll never get to big for this lap.


Phil said...

Was worth waiting for...

Mike Howerton said...

Love you, Phil! I've been absent, I know! I'll try to pick up the pace!!

Anonymous said...

Your story brought tears to my eyes as I remember my son doing that same thing. Then he learned to drive it himself and asked..."Dad, do you want a ride?"

Kelly M said...

Thanks Mike. I'm personally glad the Lord's lap and His mower are much larger than the standard John Deere. I appreciate the reminder though! Sometimes I'm too busy trying to get things done with what is comparatively a pair of scissors.

Lisa said...

this is one of the most beautiful things i've ready read.

no joke.

i cried.

thank you for sharing that.


Brent said...

If you want to make the experience last you could always continue on down the street and mow all your neighbor's lawns. That would also be a very "Christian" thing to do! And after that you could come to my house. Really, you have a special way of bringing the spiritual into everyday living. Blessings, Brent.

Jen said...

Coming from the perspective of a mother who has shared other similar moments, this was priceless and beautiful to read. I have forwarded it to a few other parents I know that will be hit hard in the heart by it. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Thank you -- what a blessing for a stranger to come across this delightful post quite by "accident". It was exactly the gentle reminder I needed today that I'm safe in the Lord's arms no matter how scary life seems. Bless you for using His gifts to you to help Him touch our lives and bring us closer to Jesus.