I can hear my wife chuckle before the words are even out of my mouth. Lines. Order.
One of the most sacred moments in my life is to walk through our neighborhood with my wife and my daughter. Actually, my daughter tends to bow out of this family tradition on a regular basis. Not sure why. I suppose walking with your parents past the houses of your classmates isn’t an enjoyable thing.
So we walk the neighborhood. We see little changes.
“They put up a mailbox.”
“Oh, that dog is awesome.”
“Finally, someone cut the grass.”
The last line is mine. I talk often about the condition of our neighbors’ grass, because for whatever reason I tend to have an opinion.
Perhaps it stems from my high school jobs cutting grass. It could be from the time when I cut the lawns of four houses, clustered together, all owned by one family. The first summer I worked there the riding lawnmower went down. From that point on, I hauled my own mower and trimmer (in our Dodge Caravan, tan with faux-woodgrain trim, thanks for asking) out to the property.
Or, it could go deeper than even that. My first real job was cutting my grandparents’ neighbor’s lawn. I remember her mower, neatly tucked away in a shed. She lived alone, though whether she never married or was a widow I have no idea. My grandfather took me to the house for my first day of cutting. He went to the end of each row and pointed to the exact spot where the wheels needed to go.
Set aside for a moment the fact that I had cut our lawn at my house for at least three summers prior. He simply wanted to make sure everything was in order.
And there it is. Order.
I look at the lawns in our neighborhood, and before the words are even out of my mouth I can hear Holley’s chuckle.
“Look at those lines! Look at how neat and clean!”
She chuckles because this is to be expected from me. After 20 years with me, she knows my leanings and can hear things before I even say them. The lines that appear in our yard every week during the summer area a sign and testimony to my preoccupation.
I love order when it comes to my lawn.
Of course, look at the desk in my office or my closet and you find a different story. Things are where they are for a reason, but that reason defies any logic of organization.
I don’t know why this preoccupation with order only comes this way. Though I don’t think I’m abnormal in that sense.
Many of us have preoccupations or attitudes that we simply cannot explain. Why am I a lover of lines and clean edges during roughly two seasons of the year, but during the other two I can’t be bothered.
Why do we maintain strict discipline in regards to eating but not for our emotional or spiritual health?
How can we be the strength for others and at the same time have no idea how to refill and refuel ourselves?
I remember reading a line from Paul in the 1 Corinthians, talking about how “God is not a God of chaos, but of order.” (paraphrase) In context, he is talking about the habits of corporate worship and the massive distractions the Corinthian church faced.
But is God really a God of order?
And if we are created in His image, are we also to be people of order?
What does it mean to cradle order in our arms while chaos explodes around us?
The houses with the neatest lines, the ones we walk by and I can’t help but grin, they remain a mystery. Is there hope and light past the green streams moving parallel to or diagonally against the sidewalk? What is the content of heart of the person or persons inside?
We are all cultivating some kind of order in our lives.
There is a hope, a quest, a desire for a centered and orderly place in our spirit in the midst of chaos. The space made for God in our spirits aches to have the plates and bowls in the cabinet, the counters clean, and the yard trimmed.
Even the most ragged-edge folks I have met share this very ache. Can I find God in the chaos? Is it possible for something – anything – to stay in order even while everything else is flying out the window?
The sun sets and my wife and I walk, with the last of the hot beams warming the back of our necks. Look there, I say. The lines are wide, meaning someone hired a service to take care of the lawn.
Look at that, I say again. The diagonal lines are harder and more time consuming, but they create a dignified effect.
That’s very nice, one more time. The homes begin to reflect their own character, but only that which is on the surface.
We can rightly critique the suburban preoccupation with green, orderly grass. Also, the small burps of carbon from gas-powered lawn equipment are no friends of the created space in which we live.
But honestly, as I look at the lines, there is a thought that occurs to me:
We are all searching for the orderly shape of God in the midst of chaos. Is it possible that the sacred transcendent is immanent in the lines of lawns of strangers?