It’s no secret that routine maintenance is important for almost everything we use. I’ve had multiple reminders lately, including one that’s a bit unusual. A pile of dirt is a rather unlikely thing to require attention, so I may be stretching the point a bit. Here’s what happened.
Several years ago, we needed some topsoil to fill in holes where we’d had a few trees removed. I ordered two dump-truck loads, one to use immediately and another to have when needed. We had it unloaded in a back corner of our yard where it would be out of the way. I’ve enjoyed the convenience of having my very own dirt pile. Lately, however, my shovel has begun to complain.
What was once a clean earthen mound is now covered in weeds, small trees, and vines. There’s also an impressive entryway made by a family of armadillos who built their dreamhouse in the hill.
None of that is a major challenge to deal with. I’ll use Roundup on whatever is growing and implement a relocation plan for the armadillos as soon as the zoo returns my phone calls. Those are just annoyances, but they reminded me that even dirt sometimes needs maintenance to remain useful.
A more typical example of the importance of maintenance was recently provided by my brother’s lawnmower. It was leaving a streak of uncut grass behind. That little sliver of green indicated the blades needed changing. Not all issues, however, are that easily diagnosed or resolved.
Jane and I had an expensive lesson years ago courtesy of a brown Chevrolet sedan. We had bought a 1978 Caprice from my parents when they got a new car. Our triplets were a few years old at the time, so Jane had her hands full at home. Between work, church, and community involvement I didn’t have much spare time either. Apparently, we were both too busy to check the oil.
My wife called me from Cordele one day to tell me the warning light had come on. She had immediately pulled off the road and turned the engine off. I don’t know about today’s vehicles, but back then when an oil light came on it served as an obituary notice for the motor. Our negligence was rewarded with seventeen hundred reminders of the importance of maintenance.
Checking the oil was something we understood was important, but somehow in the hectic pace of ordinary life it was overlooked. Rather than occasionally spending a few minutes taking care of the car, we had to sell our kids on the thrill of Santa bringing a new engine.
In April of 2020 I published a column titled “Cleaning Out Gutters.” It was about debris that had accumulated over a period of years in the gutters on the back of our home. The trash was out of sight, so I had a flimsy excuse. In early July of this year, we had a hard daytime rain. That same gutter was spilling water over the sides rather than through the drainpipe. The debris wasn’t as deep as before but it was bad enough to cause a problem.
Just about everything we use needs ongoing maintenance. Otherwise, it tends to become less functional and may reach the point where repairs are complicated and costly.
The same is true of faith. Our spiritual health is heavily influenced by our commitment to making it a priority. I don’t have any new ideas to share. It’s basic practices like Bible study, prayer, and being involved with a fellowship of believers. Plus being willing to serve God by serving others.
There’s not a formula for how much time or effort should be devoted to such aspects, but I believe we know when we fall short. What’s most important is our approach. Attitude is critical when it comes to matters of faith. 2 Corinthians 9:7 says, “God loves a cheerful giver.” That’s not just about money. It’s true for everything.
When I write about faith, it’s often prompted from knowing there are areas in my life which need improvement. So, I put it on paper with hopes it will inspire me to do better. For others who share that feeling, I invite you to consider what spiritual matters in your life may warrant attention.
Evidence of neglect may be out of sight, like leaves in the gutter. Or it can be as obvious as a streak of uncut grass. The solution is the same. Faith needs routine maintenance, not just the kind measured by time but that which begins in our hearts. If a pile of dirt can lose its usefulness, so can we.