Posted by: Melissa Bane Sevier | September 14, 2009

Life Lessons From the Backyard

Last week, I began my sermon with a story.  To refresh your memories, it went something like this:

One Saturday in June, my husband Jerry and I were working in the yard, including putting down a little topsoil in bare spots and adding grass seed.  Part of the problem was that rocks had risen to the surface and needed to be removed; a few of the rocks were large enough to require a sledge hammer to break them up.  One bare spot in particular bothered me.  Out in the middle of the back yard, it was obvious to me that the guys who had poured our concrete driveway had cleaned out their truck by pouring leftover concrete in the yard.  Much of it had been covered over by sod, but a spot less than a foot in diameter was showing.  I grabbed the sledgehammer and started to work, figuring it was a pretty thin layer that would just require a couple of swats to break up.  I was wrong.  These guys had poured out a thick puddle of concrete in our backyard!  I grew more and more irritated with them as I kept swinging, putting some good cracks in it but not enough to break it up.  Reluctant as I was to admit defeat, I called over my husband to finish the job.  Obliging, he took one big swing with the sledgehammer, which indeed dislodged a piece of concrete.  Instead of its coming loose on the surface of the ground as we expected, we were confused to see it disappear, accompanied by a distinctly wet sound of “kerplunk.”  Our confusion immediately turned to the horrible realization that we had just broken through the lid of a junction box in our septic system.

Now, lest you think I’m an idiot, … 

You know, there’s just no good way to finish that sentence.  I am an idiot.  I’d like to blame this one on Jerry, but I can’t.  I’ve had to listen to a lot of grief about this from many of you this past week.  But maybe I can redeem myself with a few life lessons on the subject.  It’s just a preacher’s humorous attempt at trying to redeem herself.  Feel free to add your own comments, as I know you will…

  1. Before you start wielding a sledgehammer, make sure you know what you’re hammering on.  With the project under discussion, this is the most obvious lesson.  A wiser person would’ve stepped back to wonder if there were another reason than the one I postulated to have a patch of concrete in the backyard.   Too often, we wield figurative sledgehammers on other people without checking things out first.  We don’t listen enough before reacting, don’t investigate before getting angry, don’t examine the other side before vehemently expressing our own view.  A little more time spent up front could save a lot of damage later on.
  2. The stuff that is in your septic tank doesn’t smell very good.  As soon as we heard the “kerplunk” we were hit with a sudden jolt of septic perfume.  This continues the lesson of #1 above.  If we go around hammering on things without investigating first, the result is likely to be toxic.
  3. Life is full of surprises; not all of them are good ones.  Whether by our own or someone else’s mistakes, or through uncontrollable events, sometimes bad things happen.  So we laugh when we can, apologize when we need to, try not to make problems bigger than they really are, and repair the damage.   Then we move on.
  4. Septic problems don’t go away by themselves.  If you leave the thing alone, it will just keep stinking, best case scenario.  Worst case, the hole gets bigger and you might even fall in, which is a lot worse than the original bad situation.  Or so I imagine.  Anyway, you have to patch it up and keep going.  (By the way, when I said last week that the problem would be fixed before next week’s picnic, one church member was heard to remark, “You can’t fix stupid.”  That is my favorite quote of the week.)  The patch may not look as good as the original, but it will make a good conversation piece.  To continue to unpack this nearly nauseating extended metaphor, when we mess up it doesn’t help to act as though nothing happened, because those things come back in worse form later on.  It’s best just to own up to the problem and make it right.

In case you’re wondering, the “unfortunate situation,” as I prefer to call it, has been repaired.  I’d planned to do it over the weekend, but Jerry handled it one day while I was at a meeting.  Bless his heart.  That’s another lesson.  Sometimes the people who love you are generous enough to take care of the messes you’ve made. 

Come to the picnic on Sunday and you can see the repairs and make fun of me some more.  Hey, I can take it.  I love to laugh.

© Melissa Bane Sevier, 2009


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