I noticed an unusual situation in my neighborhood during a walk the other day. I discovered a fairly tall and unruly patch of weeds growing between two mailboxes. These weeds appear to mark the property line between the neighbors. Both of these yards are neatly mowed on either side of the weed patch. Of course, my imagination started spinning stories about the potential root of this problem. Perhaps there is a turf war in which neither party claims this particular piece of land. Thus, the households will not cave in and mow the area because it’s not theirs to tend, resulting in a stalemate. Do they frown and mutter every time they see the overgrowth?
It could simply be an oversight. Each neighbor assumed the other would fix the problem, but neither has acted yet. Pulling out the equipment to mow one lousy spot could be too much trouble, so they’ll just wait until they mow next week. They could even have a landscaping service who missed it and is contractually obligated to come back and mow the area. Maybe they laugh over the ridiculousness of the terrain while they get their mail. I’m curious, but these folks don’t live in the immediate vicinity of my house, and I don’t know them. I can’t simply ask what’s going on. But whatever’s happening, the weeds remain untended.
I wonder who will blink first. It seems like a silly dilemma in some ways. Can’t someone just mow the overgrown spot? My first thought is that the bigger person should simply step up and take care of the situation. But in other ways, I understand the conflict. I will walk right past a pair of socks in my living room floor several times as my anger flares because I think “why won’t anyone else pick up around here?” None of us want to be taken advantage of by others or feel unappreciated. If we volunteer to help or take care of the problem, others might come to expect that of us every time. Those types of constant expectations can lead to resentment and burnout. I’ve felt it sometimes, and I’ve definitely seen it happen to other people, especially in volunteer situations, church in particular.
So, then how can we approach these types of situations in which it might be easy to act, but we don’t want to be stuck in a role that might not be one we want? Maybe we could offer to do part of the work, but then ask for help in completing the job. Some of us resist asking for assistance. We often want people to read our minds and then offer to lend a hand. But that’s not really how life works. Many people focus on their own needs to the point that they don’t notice the issues around them, or they simply aren’t that observant. But if they’re asked to do something, they would willingly help. Perhaps they would even feel included and valued if we ask them to contribute.
God wants us to work together in community. Not even Jesus did all the work by himself. He had twelve disciples who helped him in his ministry, fished when they were hungry, helped with the crowds, and did what Jesus asked them to do. And while they worked, they also spent time eating, talking, and in fellowship. They shared the work and also solidified their friendships.
The next time we see a situation that needs our help, let’s figure out what we will offer and who we will ask to help us. Maybe we can mow the patch this week and our friend can mow it the next. Or we can mow half and they will mow the other half. But if we work together, we can make progress on the issue in front of us without feeling overburdened. We can share the obligation and create a bond with the one who is working with us. And, we can please God at the same time.
P.S. Someone mowed the weeds a week later – thanks be to God.