Summer in Houston borders on unbearable. As a friend of mine once said, “It’s like living on the surface of the sun…under water.” One result is that mowing one’s lawn becomes a dreaded ordeal to be avoided at all costs. One additional obstacle more me has been the lawn mower itself: slow to start, running rough, and in general disagreeable all summer. I initially thought it was aping the attitude of its owner like a pet. But I became convinced that the lawn mower was on its last leg and would need to be replaced.
As I wheeled the machine out of the garage, hoping it would fire up a few more times and get me through this one more summer, allowing me in the off-season to find a lawn mower sale, or…dream beyond dreams…strike it rich and be able to pay a professional to mow for me, I realized I was out of gas. Frustrated at the further complication of an additional errand tacked on to an already unendurable task, I lugged myself down to the corner station gas can in hand. Upon return and refill, I cranked the mower and to my astonishment the mower roared to life quick and loud and strong. The rest of the chore proceeded as expected, but I achieved it in a much better mood realizing that the machine had not been the problem; I had been running it on bad gas.
This experience has been for me a power parable of what we as humans do with our own lives, what I myself have been trying to do with my life. I, like my mower, felt broken down and exhausted. I seemed sometime barely able to limp through an ordinary day before collapsing on the couch. I woke up each morning and discovered my motor didn’t start like it used to. I think we all experience this. Our lives take longer to get going and don’t seem to run as strong. Some may sink into depression thinking their best or happier days are behind them. Others may strive harder hoping to overcome the entropy of their lives, before sinking inevitably into frustration, exhaustion, or despair. We embrace the newest fad, strategy, diet, or blog looking for the insight, encouragement, or energy to keep going. Then after it runs its course for a little while, we stumble on to the next one.
This experience with lawn mower maintenance has shown me that many times the problem is not with the machine. It’s the gas we are trying to run it on. In Mere Christianity, CS Lewis wrote: “A car is made to run on petrol, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there.” Jesus in the Gospel of John (john 15) conveys the same idea to his pre-mechanized audience using a garden image: “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”
What gas are you trying to run your life on? Is it time to switch to the fuel you were made to run on and the only fuel that will keep you going?