Prologue: Uh, no … the term “grass” is not a euphemism for cannabis or something similar. Here, the term “grass” actually means the real thing—the kind animals eat and people have in their yards. It’s the kind that is now sometimes found on fields of play for sporting activities.
Substance: About 25 years ago I wrote a fictional novella about a soccer player. The story and writing lacked a great deal (I am sure), but there was one element in the book that I liked: my description of the grass surface on a soccer field. I described that majestic smell when a soccer player steps on to a freshly cut soccer “pitch.” As your cleats sink softly into the ground, you feel a welcoming carpet that allows you to glide gracefully along the surface with a round ball. It is instinctive and almost innate for soccer players; it’s like a sixth sense and an appreciation that develops over time. That field may have some flaws, but it is still perfect. As many a soccer traditionalist would tell you, ‘There is no substitute for real grass.’ And so this finally brings us to a world of analogies in today’s global environment. And now a “euphemism”—a synonym—can be used effectively. For there is no substitute for real grass just like there is no substitute for true goodness in the world.
The proliferation of artificial turf fields is a reality. One might even say that turf fields will soon be ubiquitous, but I hope not. It’s not just because I am a soccer purist or a grass surface prude, but because of the joy that playing on a beautiful grass surface truly represents. That same joy cannot be replicated by an artificial surface. To begin with, where’s the smell? Next, where’s the “true touch on the ball” that comes with being able to get beneath it with precision and depth. No matter how good turf will be, it will never be the same as grass. But the later generations would tell you that turf is more reliable, there’s no degradation, and it holds up well with rain and snow. Yep, all of thatmay be true. They’ll also tell you turf doesn’t need to be cut, planted, replaced, and/or cared for. Gone is the expert groundskeeper. Imagine if that was the case in golf? In fact, they tried replacing some original grass fairways in very hot weather countries with artificial turf mats to hit off of, and artificial turf landing surfaces short of the green. Well, I don’t need to say it: the game just isn’t the same. There’s no divot and there’s no true feel. I wonder how Tiger Woods and the other greats would react to a full replacement of fairways with the artificial substitute.
The same is true for life today. We have a lot of substitutes for a lot of things. We seem to have an artificial response and/or solution for just about all elements and components of life that are considered temporary in nature. Grass is temporary and it changes with time. It dies and it grows back. It goes bare and it develops rough spots. But, it’s the real deal. And so life is that way as well: it’s rough and it develops holes, too (some of them quite large and significant); it’s most unpredictable (as we know all too well); it changes with the weather and with the seasons (yes, been there and done that); it is not reliable (to say the least). However—in good times—it’s really good; it’s beautiful, magnificent and incomparable. It is unrepeatable. In its wonderfully manicured state, it is a signal and sign of God’s magnificence.
As a former soccer player and soccer coach, I can tell you about the excitement of descending upon a perfect soccer pitch prior to practice or a game. It is something to be utterly appreciated and truly admired.
I remember the feeling I had when walking onto those gorgeous fields at Disney’s Wide World of Sports in Orlando in the late 90s. I was in disbelief at how well maintained those grounds were. All I wanted to do was remove my shoes and walk on that grass barefooted. I had an internal desire to kick the ball around with no shoes so as to get the true feel of the beautiful game—just the soccer ball, bare feet, and the grass. That’s all that I needed. It was “pure heaven” and it was the manifestation of all that is good and right and just and pure in life.
So, today is about nostalgia to a degree, I suppose. But it’s also about paying attention to the extraordinary graces that God gives us, even though our lives are temporary and unpredictable, complete with divots and muddy ground. Yes, our lives need to be carefully cared for, just like the grass on a lovely fairway. It takes time and meticulous attention to detail. We have to treat that grass properly if we want it to grow and flourish, and we have to seed it quite a bit. We need to pay it homage if we want it to serve as an amazing playing ground upon which we can enjoy God’s goodness. Grass—like life—is not meant to be torn at or jabbed at, but rather to be carefully manicured with great care. And no matter how sophisticated and technological the world seems to get, there’s no substitute for the real thing.
God bless you.