The image of the man in Canada who was unphased by a tornado nearby while mowing the lawn went viral online in June. Only now, after some time has passed, did it dawn on me to connect it with the way I once thought of updating Jesus’ words in Luke 9:62. I’ve heard it said that if someone seeks to plow while regularly looking backwards, they will end up with crooked plow lines. The same presumably goes for mowing.
If the point of the saying attributed to Jesus in the Gospels is unwavering dedication, then “lawnmower man” again seems to illustrate the point well. His commitment to mowing a lawn that might soon be torn to shreds by a tornado was resolute.But this highlights as well the other side of the coin, which is the fact that unwavering dedication is not always wise or sensible, and may be downright foolhardy.
There is a danger in elevating commitment to the point where it trumps everything else. The biggest danger is that it can cease to matter what your commitment is to. Even if you define faith as trust or allegiance rather than belief in the truth of propositions, there must be a way for the object/focus of that trust/dedication to matter.
To return once again to the illustration, we should not view commitment to mowing one’s lawn whatever the weather in the same way that we view commitment to defending the persecuted no matter how angry the mobs who are attacking them.
But of course, Jesus wasn’t really talking about plowing. And so lawnmower man still works well the way he is intended to here: as a parable, an illustration of a point.