I mowed my lawn again this weekend. Actually, it was Friday, but many people consider that the beginning of the weekend, so I think that counts. I have cool season grass in my backyard, and this time of year it grows like crazy. It really needs mowing twice a week to keep it in any semblance of a manicured state. I mowed the other yards (side, front and other side—for those who were wondering, “how many yards does this guy have?”) while I was at it. They are warm season grass and haven’t really started to grow, but they looked ratty from the winter and mowing cleaned up the leaves and debris and got things looking neat again.
While I was mowing, I was thinking about all the effort and money I spend every year trying to “tame” the nature around my house. I trim trees, plant and replant flowers and bushes and other bedding plants, mow and edge the grass, feed and water the grass (which causes it to grow and need mowing more often), and pluck, poison, and chop the various plants that I didn’t select (commonly called weeds) but seem to grow better than those I did. It’s a lot of work.
We also spend significant resources trying to reverse or slow the changes our bodies undergo as we age. We rub fancy creams on our skin to keep it from wrinkling or spotting. We cut, style, dye, and in other ways enhance our hair. Unlike the hair on our heads, we attempt to control or remove the hair everywhere else. In some cases, we even surgically alter ourselves. We do all this in an attempt to match a cultural definition of what looks “good”, and which changes regularly.
Why do we spend so much time fighting the “natural” state? Because natural is not always best.
In “Leviathan”, published in 1651, Thomas Hobbes defined the “natural condition of mankind” as what would exist if there were no government, no civilization, no laws, and no common power to restrain human nature. The state of nature is a “war of all against all,” in which human beings constantly seek to destroy each other in an incessant pursuit for power. Life in the state of nature is “nasty, brutish, and short.” The main aim of mankind in community is to fight against and stave off this inevitable collapse into chaos and ruin, much like my fight with the lawn.
The natural state is a condition of decay. Things get progressively worse unless someone controls them. Regardless of how wealthy or powerful or important any of us are, we are going to get older and weaker and less healthy until we finally die. Once dead, our bodies will decompose until we are no different than the dirt under our feet. This is a sobering fact. This may also be why we try so hard to keep the natural decay from occurring all around us.
Two thousand years ago, Jesus was crucified by the religious leaders of his day. After he died, some friends of his put his body in a borrowed tomb before the Sabbath started at sundown on Friday night. What you would expect to happen over the next few days was that Jesus’ body would decay. Because of the impending Sabbath, Jesus’ body was not prepared for burial, so on Sunday morning some of the women who followed Jesus went to the tomb to finish preparing his body in the tradition of their culture. What they found, or rather didn’t find, was shocking. Jesus wasn’t there. The tomb had been sealed and guards placed there, yet on Sunday morning the tomb was open and empty. Jesus defeated death. He overcame decay and chaos and the natural state. He overcame sin.
Prior to Jesus’ death and resurrection, people had to constantly do things to remove the impact of sin. Kind of like mowing the grass, it worked, but it was temporary and had to be repeated over and over as their natural state kept ruining the effect. Through his sacrifice and his defeat of death, Jesus made it possible to permanently change our state from natural (read messed up) to supernatural (read permanently good.) If we follow him, the grass of our soul never needs mowing again; it is perpetually perfect.
What does this have to do with leading and managing an organization? Nothing and everything. People who don’t realize and accept this truth can still be great leaders, they just have to spend a lot of time mowing the grass. Those who follow Jesus trust that they cannot “do” enough to earn or have what Jesus offers. It doesn’t mean they are perfect; it only means they know who is, and they try to look more like Him every day. This can lead to them valuing other people from the viewpoint of someone who understands they didn’t earn their value and therefore other people don’t have to earn theirs either. That makes a difference.
As I participated in worship at church Sunday, I was overwhelmed with the thought that I spent so much of my life trying to make my own lawn look nice and neat, when it was really a mess. I trimmed up the stuff you could see from the street, but if you got to close, you would see how unruly and “natural” it was. Then I was overcome with gratitude that I no longer have that struggle. I traded trying to force my natural state into submission for a permanent change to my state. Imagine if you could replace your grass and flowers and trees with plants that never needed cutting or clipping and were beautiful all the time.
At Kimray, we want a culture where people know they don’t have to be perfect to be accepted. We know the natural state is a mess, and it takes a lot of work to keep things trimmed up. Once someone decides to follow Jesus, there are still plenty of things to work on, still grass to be mowed. Working on the things we can change and realizing that our value isn’t one of them may be unnatural, but it is The Kimray Way.