"The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence." Or, as the Roman poet Ovid wrote back before 17 AD, "The harvest is always richer in another man’s field." Although the wording varies, the meaning does not. Simply put, my life would be a heck of a lot better if I were over there, not here. I would be happier if I were on that side of the fence, not this side of the fence.
Oh, what a harmful trap to lament our own side of the fence. By longing to be in someone else's lawn, peering through the white pickets of someone else's fence, we tread into dangerous territory.
I should know, I am terribly guilty of this sin that breaks one of the Ten Commandments: thou shall not covet.
Through periods of my life I have built up in my mind the beauty of my neighbor's yard, so to speak. I've looked at other towns and thought if I could just live there my life would be so much more exciting! I've looked at the talents bestowed on other girls my age and thought, if I had those blessings I could do grand things with my life! My eye has wandered to happy couples and my mind has followed with thoughts of how I could be content and satisfied if only I had someone loving me with that kind of romantic passion.
Even church and ministry has caused me to have lust and envy in my heart. Pictures on Facebook have filled me with jealousy. Other girls my age have gone off and gotten married to Christian men, written devotional books, gone on missions trips and become worship leaders. I've watched as they've seen dreams of mine come to fruition in their own lives and in my heart I've harbored resentment.
They look so happy in their pictures, wearing dazzling smiles, exuding confidence and happiness.
As I click through their pictures I can't help but think, "Of course they are happy. They happen to be on the green side of the fence! Their lives are ticking along quite nicely. Opportunities are falling into place; doors are opening with swift succession. I'd be all smiles and giggles if I were in their shoes, standing on their side of the fence! But I'm not. My side of the fence isn't as green. In fact, it looks brown. It could use a serious dose of fertilizer; Maybe a little sunshine to bring new life to these wilted blades of pathetic grass. This lawn of mine would certainly benefit from a good landscaper and a powerful rototiller. If only someone would do some work on it, maybe it could look more like the grass I covet. Then my life would really be glorious….."
In the middle of my envious lament all I have to do is look out my backdoor, into the wild and untamed terrain of my yard, and to catch a glimpse of Pippy. While traversing the yard, Pippy is barely visible with her gray and brown coat of fur blending into the patches of dirt, leftover fall leaves and large tree branches strewn about the yard. The big trees dotting the lawn cast shadows on the ground, glimmers of sun piercing through, dotting the earth's surface with little pockets of light. And there in the midst of this ordinary scene is Pippy, exploring her surroundings without a care in the world.
Unlike me, Pippy isn't concerned with what is on the other side of the fence. Who needs the neighbor's yard when her own is such a treasure trove of wonders to explore?.She has bushes, tree stumps, and dirt piles to discover. There are smells to keep her little nose busy for hours. If she gets tired she has an array of trees in which she can lay under to find rest. And, every so often, she even has a big fat cat to join her in the joy of exploration. She doesn't need any one else's grass. She is perfectly content with her own.
Pippy is fulfilled with remaining on her side of the fence. Her contentment humbles me and rebukes my wandering eye. I need God's forgiveness for my envy and lust. In my heart I have sinned by looking upon other people's circumstances and lots in life with jealousy in my heart. I haven't been happy to just stay in my own yard and enjoy the thrills and pleasures it has to afford me. There are abundant blessings and wonders to explore, yet I haven't truly appreciated them because I've been too busy looking over the fence at the neighbor's grass.
As I seek God's forgiveness I am reminded of John 21:22. In this passage of scripture Jesus is answering Peter's questions about a fellow disciple. He doesn't indulge Peter's desire to know what will become of his fellow man, instead he answers by saying, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” There was no room for looking at another disciple's "grass," so to speak. Jesus wanted Peter to be more concerned about the condition of his own heart and his own walk with the Lord, not the lot of another man's life.
The command is the same for me today. The grass on the other side of the fence may be greener, browner; it could even be purple or pink. It doesn't matter. God doesn't want me to be caught up in comparison. I am simply to follow Him, focusing my attention on my own obedience.
Once I stop looking over the fence I am free to take pleasure in my own yard. Then I will come to learn what Pippy has already discovered. This side of the fence is actually quite thrilling! There are nooks and crannies to explore. There are sights and sounds that I've been missing. By constantly yearning for another plot of grass to stand on I've been missing the sweetness and softness of my own lawn. This side of the fence is actually much more wonderful than I had ever imagined!
Come this spring, when the flowers start to bloom and a vibrant green blanket of grass spreads across the earth, I may be tempted to look upon my neighbor's lawn. The home across the street might have blossoms on their trees and more tulips lining the driveway that attempt to lure my eyes to gaze upon my neighbor's yard. But I won't be fooled into this sin of comparison because I know that, no matter how lovely that yard may look from afar, it isn't the yard God has set apart for me.
God has planted me with a special purpose in a particular yard of His choosing. He has blessed me with unique circumstances and specific surroundings, rich with wonders to behold and treasures to discover. Right here on the side of the fence God has for me, there is not a blade of grass that could ever be greener.