Archives For Family

Cultivation

Mark Beuving —  January 5, 2015 — Leave a comment

Sometimes when I go through my weekly ritual of mowing my lawn, I wonder, “How many times have I walked over this exact spot?” I step on virtually every square inch of my lawn every single week. I push the mower over every blade of grass, cutting them to the exact same length. During the week, those blades grow taller and begin to look a bit unruly. And then I walk back and forth across the lawn and cut them to a uniform height. Week after week after week.

I will never finish mowing my lawn. It will always grow and always require cutting. My neighbor, on the other hand, just installed artificial turf in his backyard. Week after week, year after year, my neighbor’s turf will continue to look almost like grass. It will never need to be cut. It will just be there. And I will be next door, walking across my yard.

Abigail Backyard Bubbles

Life calls for cultivation. Dead turf needs no cultivating (though I’ve heard it needs to be washed, which doesn’t sound fun). I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pulled off dead flower petals to allow new ones to grow. Or how many times I’ve trimmed the bougainvillea plants lining my backyard. I feel like I’m constantly checking sprinklers, trimming, and doing a variety of activities to help my plants thrive.

Life is needy. Sure, life churns and thrives around the world even with no human cultivation. But there is a difference between an overgrown jungle and a well-tended garden. And if you take away some of the elements that life requires—water, for example—then life subsides. Life is needy. Gardens need tending. Plants must be cultivated.

As I mow my lawn, I sometimes consider what other areas in my life require this level of cultivation. I compare the number of times I’ve stepped on each blade of grass to the number of times I’ve read a given phrase in my Bible. I’ll never finish reading my Bible. It’s not enough to have read the whole thing. My knowledge of the Bible will never be complete; I’ll never hear its comforts and admonitions enough; my imagination will never be sufficiently stimulated by the prophetic and poetic imagery in its pages. And so I sit regularly in the same chair, holding the same book, re-reading lines that have long been familiar. This is an act of cultivation.

Or how many times have I spoken the same words to God? “Lord, help my daughters grow to love you. Give them hearts of compassion. Please provide for our family.” I have made these requests so many times. And I repeat other phrases to God endlessly: “Thank you for today. Thank you for my wife. For our girls. For constantly providing. For loving us.” It doesn’t matter how many times I say these things. They will need to be said again. I will never finish praying. I will always be cultivating.

How many times have I performed the simple gestures that show my wife I love her? I have taken out the trash so many times. I’ll never be done with that. I have spoken the words “I love you” so many times over so many years. I have tried to set aside my plans for her benefit many times (though not nearly enough). How many times have I performed simple, repetitive actions for my daughters? Saying “I love you.” Helping them get dressed. Getting them snacks. Buckling them into cars. Brushing their teeth. Disciplining them. Over and over and over I do these things. I will never be done with some of these activities (though I hope to teach my girls to brush their own teeth someday). I repeat these simple actions and words because they are a means of cultivation.

I suppose a well-tended garden could be glamorous, in a certain sense. But cultivation is never glamorous. It’s always boring. Always repetitive. Yet there is no garden without cultivation. So it is in our daily lives. The most important things we will do are boring, repetitive tasks. And yet they matter immensely. Each simple gesture is an act of cultivation, an act of faith toward what we know a plant or relationship could become if well cared for.

So as you begin this new year, what in your life needs cultivating? You can’t simply decide to be a good father, or a good spouse, or a good friend, or a good reader, or whatever. It requires patient cultivation. What will you cultivate? What are you cultivating now? What are you neglecting? And how can you, in faith, better cultivate those things that really matter this year?

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the seriesThanksgiving

People Centered ThanksgivingEvery year, as we gather around the Thanksgiving table, every member of my family shares something that he or she is thankful for. I love this time. I love so much about Thanksgiving. I know that many people have difficult family dynamics, but both sides of my family are warm, loving, and essentially likeminded. It is always encouraging to go around the table and hear what these godly people are thankful for.

What are you most thankful for?

When I think about what my family and I are most thankful for, it’s surprising how ordinary these things are. We say things like family, work, solid relationships, children, grandchildren, food, salvation, freedom, etc.

How boring, right? We have these things year round. Assuming your year went decently, these things were a part of your daily routine. Shouldn’t we be wowed more by the major events and surprises in our lives than by the monotony of day to day life?

Perhaps Thanksgiving is nothing more than a big event that draws our attention back to the boring things that really matter.

We know that thankful hearts need to continue beyond our Thanksgiving vacations. If the things that we are most thankful for around the Thanksgiving table remain with us every day of our lives, then remaining thankful should be easy. Right?

It is a sad irony that we most often forget to appreciate those things with which we remain in constant contact. My iPhone was a miracle of technology and design until I began using it every day. Now it’s “just a smart phone.”

On a more serious note, my daughters caused me to weep when they first entered this world. And now they’re the most constant part of my everyday life. How do I remain thankful for these unbelievably precious gifts from God?

Much of this comes from taking time to remember how thankful we really are. This is why times like Thanksgiving are so valuable. But my wife and I often look at each other and remind ourselves how blessed we are. We can’t believe what God has given us and—even more significantly—who He is for us. We keep each other thankful in this way.

But there are also boring ways to be thankful for boring things. We show our appreciation for God’s gifts through the way we steward them. If my daughters are incredible gifts from God, then I should open my mouth and tell him “thank you.” But I should also be careful to treat them as gifts in the way I interact with them on a daily basis. We probably don’t think of our daily interactions as forms of thanksgiving, but faithfully stewarding God’s gifts is the best way to thank God for them—whether that gift is family, work, or your very salvation.

So however you are celebrating Thanksgiving this year, don’t forget to be thankful for the boring things in life. And don’t forget to do this through your words and through your faithful stewardship.

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