As I was mowing my lawn recently, taking care to cut at a different angle than the previous mowing, I remembered a quick glance from a bus window that had made a lasting impression.

While riding a shuttle bus from Honolulu’s airport to the Ala Moana Hotel last month, we passed by the U.S. Immigration and Homeland Security offices. I couldn’t help but notice the lawn, which consists of three sections, each surrounded by neatly trimmed square hedges and shaped as perfect rectangles.

Evidently, whoever mows the lawn there was given strict instructions about how to mow the lawn, or else the groundskeeper just couldn’t figure out another way to do it. It appeared that the lawn was mowed regularly, but always beginning in the same corner and following the same pattern, going straight back and forth, working across the yard one mower-width at the time.

The problem is that the wheels of the mower, always in the same place, had worn ruts in the grass, leaving the lawn looking like a farmer’s field sown in careful rows instead of a solid green lawn. It’s not so apparent in the GoogleEarth image at right, but at ground level, it was quite obvious.

Just a little imagination, enough to rotate the patterns used for mowing, would result in a healthier and more attractive lawn.

Since I was also mulling over an upcoming speaking engagement to discuss the changes fundamentalism has brought to the Southern Baptist Convention, it was a short leap to think of how  expecting strict adherence to a doctrinal statement (like the Baptist Faith & Message 2000) may result in a lot of people staying within the lines, but at the cost of spiritual imagination, individual experience, and the beauty that comes with diversity.

Occasionally going against the grain can be a very useful thing.

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