Life as a working parent has its challenges. The brand-new house we bought in 2001, with its smell of fresh paint, its clean, expansive kitchen, and its carefully landscaped yard had almost turned into a burden. The white walls were stained by teenage fingermarks, the kitchen seemed to spontaneously create rolling puffs of dog hair, and the backyard had turned into an out-of-control, weed-infested jungle. I like cleanliness and order, and my home had become a nagging source of responsibility, disappointment, and discontent.
But God seemed to be whispering one word: “diligence.”
The word “diligent” can be found in Proverbs: “The sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied” (Prov 13:4). It hasn’t been my favorite verse. When I read “sluggard,” I immediately see myself as one of those slimy, yellow, banana slugs I once found on a hiking trail in Northern California. Ugh. I don’t think I want to be a slug … gard.
So, in the last several weeks, I’ve been devoting most of a weekend day to cleaning up the house and the yard. Last weekend, we cut down two trees, but the trunk and the roots of the largest tree were still in the yard. So yesterday, my father, my son, and I tackled the stubborn tree trunk, which had sent its roots out all over the center of my yard. It took hours in the hot sun of a Southern California afternoon to deal with that silly tree, and I quickly discovered that swinging an axe is much harder than it looks. But, late that afternoon, my son grinned in triumph and wrested a cut-up tree stump out of the ground.
A month ago, the discontent from my dirty, unkept home was weighing on my spirit. Yesterday, I was dirty and exhausted, but when I walked out into our background, the evening was cool and quiet, and I saw a smooth green lawn, pink rose bushes surrounded by wood chips, and tall green trash cans filled with tree branches. “It looks much better,” my Mom told me. “Your yard is like a park.”
I still have plenty to do, but I realized something yesterday. Although it was a lot of hard work, diligence produced more than just a clean yard. Things that are undone seem to hang over me; making progress and being diligent left me with … peace.
The conquered tree stump reminded me of the phone calls I want to make about the Divorce Care class at our church…and the online evangelism organization I should join this week. There are Bible studies I want to write, uplifting books I want to read to my son, and a class I need to finish at church.
Got something hanging over you? Need a little peace? Think about a tree stump and a slimy banana slug.