by Emily Conrad
The old maple in our front yard puts on quite a show in fall, but it does so early. While other trees remain green, ours has been dropping orange and red and yellow leaves since August.
My sister complimented us on having done some raking when she spotted the leaves neatly piled on the terrace along the road in front of our house. Unfortunately, the city was less impressed.
The garbage collectors put a notice on our trash can informing us leaf collection doesn’t start until October 17th, and in the meantime, our leaves can’t hang out on the curb. Except the notice didn’t call it that. The notice called the curb the City Right-of-Way (ROW).
On reading the notice, my first instinct was to go out and scatter the leaves all over the yard again because we wouldn’t have gotten a notice if we hadn’t taken the initiative to clean up our yard.
My second instinct was to post a snarky comment on Facebook like the mature adult I am. I’m defensive about maple leaves, which I realize is silly, but even as I type that, I’m thinking, to be fair, the city started it…
These instincts of mine are hypocritical for a whole slew of reasons. Toward the top of the list: I don’t particularly like reading complaints on Facebook, and as a Christian writer, I’m publicly claiming to follow Jesus, and what did Jesus teach?
To give to Caesar what is Caesar’s. To give to the city what is the city’s.
The city spelled out in the notice that leaves can clog sewers and contribute to algae blooms, so they have their reasons for not wanting the leaves on the curb early.
Regardless of whether I agree with their reasons, the leaves were on the City’s ROW, and my attitudes fall on Christ’s ROW. Both need to be cleaned up.
I’m extra-convicted about this when I look up that give-to-Caesar verse, which actually goes like this:
He said to them, “Then give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:21, NET)
I went out and moved the leaves off the curb.
But how to rake up that attitude of offense?
2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work. (NET)
Scripture makes the best rake when it comes to fallen attitudes. Knowing I’m to obey authority doesn’t really help change my attitude as I obey, though. To change that, I need to focus my thoughts in the right place, and whenever it comes to redirecting my thoughts, this is my go-to verse
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things. Philippians 3:8, NET
What is lovely in the case of the leaves? Why, the leaves themselves are, of course—that’s how I’ve decorated this whole post!
What if, instead of begrudging the city’s process for leaf collection, I focused my energy on enjoying our beautiful tree? Hey, if the cost of having this tree shade our house all summer long, if the cost of having this beautiful thing turn orange and red and gold, is timing my cleanup efforts, that’s a small price to pay.
Furthermore, if the convenience of having a truck come around and vacuum up my leaves every fall comes with the qualification that I must wait on the truck’s schedule, so be it. At least I don’t have to put up with the smell of burning leaves or the hassle of carting them off to some dump site.
And really, if leaves are the worst I have to complain about, I’ve got a lot to be thankful for. The fact that I own a house. That my husband and I are well enough to keep up the yard. That I have sight to see the fall color. That I live in a state with four beautifully distinct seasons.
Yes, it takes some raking sometimes to turn my attitude from frivolous offense to gratitude, but I’m a happier person this way than when I dwell defensively on a silly matter. I think my Facebook friends are happier with me this way, too.
Always rejoice, constantly pray, in everything give thanks. For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NET