Mowing the yard is my absolute favorite household chore. Call me crazy, but give me a mower and an hour without kids asking for snacks every five minutes, and I’m in heaven.
My husband has allergies, so I often jump at the opportunity to make those pristine lines across our lawn. When the job is finished, I walk up the street from our driveway to the mailbox, admiring my work.
Those visible results satisfy a place in my soul that often feels parched.
Like the gold stars my kindergarten teacher used to put on my handwriting homework, the manicured lawn confirms my job is finished.
Life isn’t always so simple, is it? We pour time and energy into motherhood, relationships, work and our day-to-day life, sometimes wondering if anything we’re doing is making a difference. When we don’t see progress, we become discouraged.
A few years ago, God showed me how he works in moments that may seem insignificant to us, but are huge to others.
Making a difference
I had just finished mowing, and was out walking the dogs. Our neighbor with the crowned jewel yard lived about a block down the street, and as I walked by I noticed him sitting on the front porch. He was always outside during this time of year, either sitting in his rocker or working on his meticulously kept property.
The water flowing over his tiered fountain made a peaceful sound as I walked by and waved, making sure the dogs did not stop to do their business on the lush green grass. He waved back and asked about my husband.
After I made my circle and came back, he was still there. This time, he was hand watering the grass with his hose.
“Your yard looks really good!” he hollered as I walked by.
I almost stopped dead in my tracks. Our yard? The yard with the ground cover showing and the flowers half-eaten by deer? Surely I must have heard him wrong.
“Yeah, let your husband know he’s done a good job!” he said.
Yes, he credited my husband. But I couldn’t stop smiling.
“Thank you!” I yelled back.
I didn’t tell him that at the time, I worked outside more often than my husband. It didn’t matter. The man with the pristine yard had complimented us. I couldn’t have been happier if someone planted one of those blue ribbon stakes in it and named us yard of the month. As soon as I got home, I told my husband about our achievement.
As much as I enjoyed the compliment, God gave me a deeper insight into what this neighbor said and showed me it wasn’t the yard that was important. It was something more meaningful.
This neighbor complimented my husband because he respected him. He took pride in his yard, and by commending our efforts he showed he held us in high regard.
On a late summer evening several months before, he’d shared with my husband how he was going through a difficult time. A season of hardship had come unexpectedly, and he confided in Chris because he trusted him. After Chris shared this with me, I realized how God was using their friendship for something greater than compliments on each other’s yards.
He was shaping eternity in words spoken between neighbors. In confidence shared between friends.
In one of Paul’s letters to the Corinthians, he states,
“You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”
2 Corinthians 3:2-3 NIV
Every interaction we have with others can either leave them with the aroma of Christ or with a bitter taste in their mouth.
We have the choice. When Chris ministered to our neighbor during his time of need, he illustrated the words Paul penned all those years ago. He didn’t have to preach a sermon or be acknowledged.
He simply loved. And that was enough.
Friend, I don’t know what you’re going through today. You may have a pile of laundry that seems unconquerable or a teething toddler who won’t be consoled. You may long to see evidence that your work is making an impact.
Can I extend an invitation to you? Can I step into your world? Trust me, I know what it’s like to feel that longing. Here’s what we can do together:
At the end of the day, simply ask yourself, “Did I love? Did I do all this because of love?”
If this answer is “yes,” rest well, dear sister. He is working through you in ways you can’t even see yet. But one day, we will. One day, we will know in full.
A version of this post originally appeared at abbymcdonald.org, published with permission.