The Lawnmower You Gave Me

I’ve never used a riding mower before.  I never had a lawn big enough to need one.

For most of my life, since I was nine or ten, I’ve pushed a mower to get the grass to a manageable length.  Back and forth, step after plodding step.  Leaning forward, hands spread across the push handle, row follows row until the task is completed.

It has always been a hot, tedious chore.

I have always been careful to say so too, after each session.  The Lovely Lady usually has a cold drink ready for me when I’m done and she stands there smiling as I complain.

The yard I mow now is done with a riding mower.  I sit down to do the job.  No more do I take step after step while following the roaring lawn implement.  I let the clutch out and the machine carries itself (and me) back and forth across the expanse of green, chewing up and spitting out all that exceeds the height I want to see when I’m finished.

What could be better?  Like day and night, the two methods are.  Or, are they?

Somehow, she still gets the same complaint from me at the end of the afternoon.

It’s a hot, tedious chore.  And yes.  I tell her so.

…and that seat just beats me up as it throws me from side to side over the uneven ground…

She smiles and hands me my cold water.

As I think about it, the red-headed lady who hands me my water is replaced—in my inner sight, that is—by another red-headed lady I loved—the red-headed lady who raised me.

She just looks up from her crocheting as she sits in her rocker and reminds me that I’ve always complained.  Always.

You’d complain if they hung you with a new rope.

I didn’t ask.  Sometimes, it’s just better to work things out on your own.  Maybe it had something to do with that other thing she always said about ropes.

Give you enough rope and you’ll hang yourself.

Nope.  No help there, either.

In time, though, I think I’ve worked out the new rope saying.  Simply put, it means we complain about the most absurd things at the most inappropriate moments.  It’s an absurd statement meant to point a spotlight at an absurd action.

The red-headed lady (the one who raised me) was right.  I do complain about ridiculous things when, in fact, they are the very things for which I should be grateful.

Leftovers again? Again?

Why are they coming to visit tonight?

I just bought gasoline for this thing last week!

If I have leftovers, I have plenty to eat.  More than plenty.  

When they come to visit again, be it friends, or grandchildren, or even the in-laws, I have companionship—a wondrous gift ill-suited for disdain of any sort. 

If I need to purchase gasoline again, I have had need of a vehicle and am blessed to have access to one—a luxury most in this world do not have.

I’m not preaching.  I’m not.  

Still, I am ashamed of myself, but I think I’m not alone.

It is some comfort to not be the only one.  Really, I think if I didn’t complain, then I might be the only one.  From the beginning, humans have complained.

The woman you gave me…the complaint Adam made, implying that if God had only had better sense than to burden him with Eve, everything could have continued as it was. (Genesis 3:12)

We’ve complained ever since.

The Children of Israel in the desert did it, again and again.  Moses did, too.  

Elijah hid in the mountains after an astounding victory and trotted out his accomplishments while complaining that He hadn’t been treated very well.  

Jonah preached a better sermon than Billy Graham could ever hope for, with appropriate accompanying results, yet he complained that God allowed the repentant sinners to live.

It wasn’t only the men.  Sarah suggested Abraham should take her servant as a surrogate mother, but then complained about the result of that relationship—so much so that her dutiful husband drove the child and his mother into the desert to die.

Martha complained that her sister was a slacker, leaving her to do all the important work.

I’m not the only one.  But, here’s the thing.  

I don’t want to be one at all.

Besides the infamous squeaky wheel, I see no lasting benefit to complaining.

It’s not what I want to be remembered for.  And, that’s just what the Apostle, my namesake, reminded the good folk at Philippi of—that they were the focus of their generation’s scrutiny.

Everything—every single thing—you do should be done without complaining or grumbling. Live exemplary lives, with nothing to criticize.  You are in full sight of the world, blazing like stars in the sky as you walk daily in the middle of sin-filled and perverse communities. (Philippians 2:14-15)

It’s not just complaining about the inconveniences of life he’s talking about, although given the nature of the creature, that seems likely enough. 

Implied is the directive that we shouldn’t mutter against the folks around us, both followers of Christ and non-believers.


Complaining is proof of an ungrateful heart.  It is evidence of an unforgiving spirit.  

In short, it shows a heart unchanged by grace and love.

Complaining shows a heart unchanged by grace and love. Click To Tweet

My heart.  Ungrateful.  Unforgiving.


I would not have it so.

I want to shine.  Like a star on the horizon, I want to blaze clearly and distinctly.

I think I’ll start by thanking the Lovely Lady for the cold water.  Perhaps the ride on the mower wasn’t as rough as all that, either.

All good gifts come from above.

It’s hard to complain when I’m saying thank you.



I personally believe we developed language because of our deep inner need to complain.
(Jane Wagner ~ American writer/director)


Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.
(Philippians 4:5,6 ~ NLT ~  Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. All rights reserved.)




© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2017. All Rights Reserved.

4 thoughts on “The Lawnmower You Gave Me

  1. Yes, Paul, it IS hard to complain when one is grateful for all things instead. Can’t tell you how much keeping a gratitude journal has helped me in that arena.

  2. Paul,

    An “ouchy” one for me. I loved it though because I want to look different than the world around me. But if I complain, I look the same. I guess I’ve done it for years so it’s a habit that holds on tight, but God can unloose it. He’s broken other ones for me. There’s something about his touch.

    The thing I am learning is just what you said, you can’t be grateful and complaining at the same time. When you are thankful, that implies full of thankfulness, no room for complaining, comparing, or anything else. Complaining can be our indicator that we are not thankful. I’ve found myself saying out loud when I do complain, “No, I want to be thankful.” And immediately I thank God for whatever it is.

    Maybe some of these things we deal with on a day to day are just tests. We say one thing…now we can prove it.

    Thank you for the reminder. And thanks for pointing out that when we do complain we are not alone. Many have. And yet. I know of one who did no complaining. Even when nails pierced his perfect, sinless skin.

  3. Interesting. I nearly wrote my upcoming blog that will post tomorrow on the reality that one cannot be thankful and crabby at the same time. LOL
    I didn’t, but I nearly did.
    This was wonderfully written and wonderfully shared. Thank you for your style, your consistency, and your grace.

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