By Steven Norris

“Wow! It is so good to make music with you again.” John and I had played together in a church band for a number of years. I knew that he was struggling with a deep sense of discontentment — in his church, his marriage, and his job. On more than one occasion, he had confided in me: “I’m thinking about looking for a different community of faith, one that fits me a little better than this one.”

Not too long after that conversation, he seemingly feel off the radar. I didn’t see him for months, assuming that he had gone on to find a new group with which to make music and invest his life. When he showed back up carrying that beautiful white Fender P-Bass, I was thrilled to see him.

“What brought you back?” I couldn’t help but ask. His answer caught me off guard and has stuck with me in the intervening years.

“Well, I went looking for awhile, but everywhere I went there seemed to be problems. With one church, it was the preacher. At another one, the music selection was just terrible. I couldn’t stand the guitar player at one place and the Bible studies were just shallow in another. Then, I had a conversation with someone who told me that as soon as I found the perfect church, I needed to turn around and run away as fast as I could.”

By this time, he had me. I couldn’t help but ask the inevitable follow up question: “Why would he tell you to do that?”

“He told me that as soon as I showed up at that perfect church, I would inevitably bring all my relational baggage and emotional garbage with me. Therefore, I couldn’t help but mess everything up for myself and everyone else.”

In times of personal turmoil, seismic cultural shifts, and an unending sense of uncertainty, it is very tempting to convince ourselves that what we really need is a change of pace or venue. We tell ourselves things like, “If I could just move to a bigger (or smaller) house, find a better job, move to a more suitable church, or find a different romantic partner, my life would be so much better.” 

There are certainly times that we may need to change our circumstances to put ourselves on a better road to health. However, most of the time we just bring our junk with us to the next location, job, or relationship. Maybe there’s a better way.

Some years later, as I was going through a similar time of inner conflict, a friend asked me, “Do you know why the grass looks greener on the other side, Steven?”

“No,” I replied. “Tell me.”

“Because somebody stayed put and watered it. In the off season, they put down fertilizer. As weeds threatened to choke out the new life, they did the painstaking task of getting on their hands and knees to start pulling. Maybe the key to greener grass is taking care of the lawn already under your feet.”

Maybe both friends had a point.