Actually, believe it or not, some folks do. At the time this picture was made we lived next door to a most persnickety old man. I say "old” – the truth is he was about the same age as my dad, and he had twin daughters who were in my Kindergarten class, but regardless of whether or not you would call him old, Mr. Kenniston was definitely persnickety. The guy mowed his yard about six times a day, and washed his car almost that often. You could eat off the floor of his garage (except that no one was permitted to carry so much as a Hershey Bar through there) and I’m convinced that his tool bench could have served as a makeshift surgical table. No leaf from a tree ever languished on his lawn for more than thirty seconds, no raindrop had a chance to dry on his plate glass windows and no grass was allowed in the wading pool. You heard me. I said no grass was allowed in the wading pool!
When we were invited to swim at the Kenniston’s there were stringent laws by which we were expected to abide: First we had to wash our feet off in the little dishpan on the sidewalk. Next, we walked to the pool by way of the big towel on the ground, being careful not to veer onto the grass. Then, after wiping our feet one more time on the towel, we were finally permitted to step into the water. Each time we entered or exited the pool this exact procedure had to be followed, no exceptions – and our every move was strictly policed by Mr. Rule Enforcer himself. In addition, there was to be no eating or drinking in or near the pool area (remember, we’re talking a plastic inflatable job here), we could not run, jump or splash, and balls and toys were strictly prohibited as they might accidentally land on the grass. Needless to say an afternoon at the Kenniston’s wasn’t exactly brimming with merriment and laughter, and not surprisingly there were very few repeat visitors.
Contrast that with the same activity at our house. If you look at the photo again, it’s obvious by the bare patches of ground, the unpainted fence, the weeds, the faded drooping pup tent, the rusty swing set and the fact that Marsha and I have both apparently decided to go for an impromptu dip without even bothering to don a bathing suit that "persnickety” was a term seldom used describe the Jolly way of doing things. In fact, I’d be hard pressed to come up with a single pool-related rule we were expected to abide by, with the possible exception of "hamsters can’t swim.”
Our yard looked like a war zone and the pool was awash in grass and Barbie dolls and soggy jelly sandwiches (hey – it’s biblical. "Cast your bread upon the waters, for after many days you will find it again.” Ecc. 11:1), but we had a whale of fun anyway. All the kids in our neighborhood did too. There was never an official "invitation” to our back yard. Nobody cared whose friend was whose or how close to dinnertime it was. As long as there was sun in the sky and water in the pool, everybody knew they were welcomed to just jump right in and have a Jolly-good-time.
I don’t know about you, but I see a lot of parallels to all of this when it comes to my relationship with God. Too often I want to spend time with Him, but I just don’t feel worthy or clean enough to step into His presence. Too many little guilt things get in the way. You know the ones I mean – like the ugly book that I’m reading but can’t seem to put down, despite its offensive language; or the juicy gossip-fest about an old school chum that I got sucked into (and admittedly thoroughly enjoyed); or the hotel towel I ripped off to wrap my muddy shoes in for the trip home last week. I certainly can’t approach God after doing this kind of stuff, so I tend to stay away until I feel a bit more deserving. To put it another way, my feet are way too grassy to step into the water. Meanwhile, as a result of all this shame-ridden delay, I’m missing out on a really cool and refreshing time!
Somehow I doubt that’s what God intended. The ultimate host of the "Come-As-You-Are Party”, He doesn’t expect me to be perfect before I arrive. He just wants me to jump in and enjoy His blessings with jubilation. Well alrighty then. It’s plenty hot outside. I think I’ll take Him up on it. Why don’t you grab a towel and join me?
"I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” Hab. 3:18