Like Grass I

According to the ancient Scriptures, we are supposed to be like trees, though most of us fail to be so. But the Scriptures also tell us that we are unavoidably like something else less striking, less enduring—grass. And as we reach the heat of summer, the grass, so vigorous in spring, turns dry and brown unless watered consistently, a reminder of our short and fragile lives. Look at the words of the psalmist and the prophet Isaiah:

“The LORD is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust. Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die. The wind blows, and we are gone—as though we had never been here. But the love of the LORD remains forever with those who fear him.” (Psalm 103:13-17)

“Shout that people are like the grass. Their beauty fades as quickly as the flowers in a field. The grass withers and the flowers fade beneath the breath of the LORD. And so it is with people. The grass withers and the flowers fade, but the word of our God stands forever.” (Isaiah 40:6-8)

In the Middle East, the original context for these writings, grasses and wildflowers flourish with the winter rains, turning the world green. But by July, just a few months later, the world has turned a golden brown, as everything dries out in the hot sun. So for that part of the world, the short-lived character of grass is especially pronounced, expressing the truth with particular clarity that our lives are short and pass quickly. (In other parts of the world, the character of grass might paint a more enduring picture for us; but that wasn’t true in the Bible world.)

To live fully, we must discover this truth: We are all like grass. We flower forth with lush growth in youth, but then our glory and strength quickly wane. All of us must face death—and soon. And such a perspective, as negative as it may seem, is a great gift. How often have we heard the testimonies of people suffering with a terminal illness, that when faced with imminent and certain death, they finally discover how to really live? And the fact is—we’re all terminal.

When we come to know with a certainty that we all are dying, even the youngest of us—that our days are short—it is then that we come to know what it is to live. For it is only then that we come to value each and every breath, to savor each bite of freshly baked bread, of a crisp apple, of a sweet ripe mango. It is only then that we are truly grateful for each sip of water, of milk, of wine, for each smile or kind word given and received among friends. It is then that we can recognize each sunset, each flower blossom, for the true wonder that it is.

It is here that we discover there are no more moments to wait before offering and receiving forgiveness, even with our enemies; there is no more time to waste before binding up wounds we’ve left long open and festering. There is time only for action, for service, for love.  There is no time left for delay in what’s really important. And what’s really important always involves the people God has placed in our lives. It seldom has to do with the many busy things that fill our calendars and that we use to make ourselves feel important.

Garden Tip: As the grass turns brown in the hot days of summer, allow it to do so. Turn off the sprinkler and turn to the important work you’ve been called to do in life. Let the brown grass remind you that we are all suffering in a terminal state. There is no time left for delay in the really important things.

I do still advise watering your vegetables and flowers. 🙂 But with the grass of your lawn, though it will turn brown during dry times, it will also quickly green up again when it rains. And perhaps this can remind you (along with the words of the psalmist and the prophet) that though our lives are short, God’s Word and loving presence will always remain. There is always the hope of a resurrection.