I used to hate mowing the grass. I grew up mainly in apartments and never learned to, nor had to mow a lawn. Then I got married and bought a house. After toiling for weeks to destroy of a yard of weeds, I spent many more weeks grading, tilling, and planting. Several large water bills later and I had a fledgling yard of grass.
Then the day came.
One minute I’m enjoying breakfast and the next my wife is telling me the yard needs to be mowed. Of course, I understood the concept and even knew some of the basics of mowing (even lines were important). But such things were abstract until now. I soon discovered my dislike for mowing. Putting on old clothes, work shoes, clearing the yard of toys and down spouts, filling up the tank with gas, and always spilling a little–what a waste when so many good commentaries are lining my shelves! And then the monotony of back-and-forth, back-and-forth, not to mention having to avoid tearing up the landscaping my wife had put in. Ugh.
And yet, I always found that when it was done, I would look across the yard and feel an odd sense of satisfaction to what I had just done. Thus, the pattern of my life was: seeing the grass getting taller and taller, not looking forward to mowing, having to mow, then actually feeling good about mowing (but not knowing why). I lived with this seemingly meaningless tension for years.
Then, one day it hit me like a ton of bricks. Actually, it was like being in an old building on a dreary day when the clouds suddenly blow away and the sun beams in, showing the true beauty of the designs all around you. I was listening to someone speak about the calling of man to have dominion over the earth and I realized why I actually enjoyed mowing the lawn.
Part of me is built for books. I love study and learning ad teaching others. But another part of me is built for something more basic. In the garden, God gave Adam (and so all humanity) this simple instruction: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen 1:28). As God’s image-bearers, humanity is called to subdue the earth and have dominion over it. Now, I have no idea how grass worked in the Garden of Eden. I imagine that it was essentially the same as now. However, after sin entered the world, God is clear that subduing and exercising dominion will be harder (3:17-19). In part, that means I’m more lazy than I should be as much as the the earth will resist.
And I while I think there is an edge to this calling of dominion when it comes to learning, I nevertheless believe the reason I feel satisfied after mowing is precisely this: I’m actually fulfilling my calling to subdue and have dominion over the earth. Even in something as simple as mowing the yard, I’m taking up the responsibilities I have been given as a son of Adam to keep the world in check, caring for it, subduing it. Every time I got out that mower, my innate sense of calling was resonating with my soul that was I was doing was something I was created for.
Now, I actually look forward to mowing the law. It’s not something I put off, but embrace. I’m actually taking joy in that work because I’m no longer just a son of Adam, but a son of God by faith in Christ. Therefore, even by mowing the lawn, I’m knowingly obeying his will for me as his image-bearer, joyfully answering his call. Just as Liddell felt God’s pleasure when he ran, now I feel his pleasure when I mow. To God alone be the glory for only he could have produced that in my life!