Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted them. I was transferring the wet clothes to the dryer. It was intended to be a quick stop in the laundry room on my way back to my office to finish my tasks for the day. I was originally drawn to the laundry room by the smell of a too full cat liter box, in the same room as the washer. After cleaning the liter box I remembered the wet clothes that lead to the clothes transfer. After pushing “start” on my dryer my eyes drifted up to the warm box of Lacroix that need to be loaded into the refrigerator that when moved revealed the forgotten package of tulip bulbs that had been hiding behind the LaCroix…… which lead to….
my afternoon in the dirt. whew.
Missouri dirt is no joke. It is actually more like clay. When combined with water it becomes a mass of sludge that forms to what ever it touches. It is shocking to me that anything grows in it. It is equally surprising that anything put in Missouri dirt in November would survive through a cold winter and emerge as a beautiful beacon of hope with the first glimpses of Spring. But they do. They have and they will.
Which is why I spent some time …..
in the dirt.
Fall planting is an investment in my future joy. It is my last horticultural act of a season that begins in early spring and fizzles by late September when I pull up all my summer flowers and replace them with one red mum. The mum holds me over until November when I put the mum in the garbage, grab my shovel and my bag of tulip bulbs and start to dig.
A shovel, hard ground that forced me to work to create a warm place for my little bulbs and a bit of time in late afternoon was just what my soul needed. The first turn of the soil unleashed a fragrance that brought me back to afternoons of my both my childhood and those of my own children.
Dirt from my moms summer garden.
Dirt from the campsite we where we vacationed in Northern Michigan.
Dirt that held the worms my sister and I dug up in preparation for fishing with my Dad.
Dirt from the playground behind my elementary school.
Dirt from the fire pit we built on a youth group weekend canoe trip.
One of my favorite dirt memories with my own children was the afternoon my oldest two dug for roly- poly bugs in our back yard. They hunted and dug and hunted and dug and filled their bug catcher with what looked like hundreds of little bugs that had the ability to roll up in a ball. Their smudged faces and beaming smiles when they presented me with their work brought me such a feeling of mom pride. I loved that my kids weren’t afraid to get dirty. I love that I’m not afraid to get dirty… to embrace the joy of messing up my physical outside appearance to bring a future beauty that will last for weeks in the spring. There is nothing like the first pokes of green through thawing flower beds to give hope needed to make it to summer.
The warm, soapy water felt good as I rubbed my hands together in an effort to clean my hands following my afternoon in the garden. I stood at my kitchen sink and let my mind wander to my favorite dirt memories and I realized that my love for dirt goes much deeper then the 12 ft wide flower bed in my front yard. As I watched my dirt caked hands return to their clean, flesh colored state I was reminded of the one who loves me, dirt and all.
Miriam Webster gives some interesting clarification of the meaning of the word Dirt.
b. substance, such as mud or dust, that soils someone or something,
c. archaic: something worthless
d. : a contemptible person
2. Loose or packed soil or sand: EARTH
3.a. an abject or filthy state
c. scandalous or malicious gossip
d. embarrassing or incriminating information
In John chapter 8 we are introduced to a woman who was covered in a thick layer of the kind of DIRT we see in definition 2.d and 3. c and d above. a contemptible person, scandalous, embarrassing or incriminating information.
“The religion scholars and Pharisees led in a woman who had been caught in an act of adultery. They stood her in plain sight of everyone and said, “Teacher, this woman was caught red- handed in the act of adultery. “
Wait, I need to pause for a moment – Did they even let her get dressed? Was she standing in the middle of the Temple wrapped in a sheet?
The story continues…
“Moses, in the Law, gives orders to stone such persons. What do you say?” They were trying to trap him into saying something incriminating so they could bring charges against him.
Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger in the DIRT. They kept at him, badgering him. He straightened up and said, “The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the first stone.” Bending down again, he wrote some more in the DIRT.
Hearing that, they walked away, one after another, beginning with the oldest. The woman was left alone. Jesus stood up and spoke to her. “Woman, where are they? Does no one condemn you?”
“No one, Master.”
“Neither do I,” said Jesus. “Go on your way. From now on, don’t sin.”
Jesus wasn’t impressed nor afraid of the woman’s dirt, as ugly as her persecutors wanted her to appear. He was also very clear that the dirt in the temple that day did not just rest on the woman. He called out every single finger pointer in the room. In one simple sentence he shown a light on the ugliness that covers all of them and us and he just kept…
drawing in the dirt.
I’ve often wondered what he was doing. I’ve had long conversations with friends over coffee deliberating the message he was scripting. Until we get to heaven and can ask him face to face, I don’t think we will ever know.
But I can take my best guess.
I imagine as he was swirling his fingers in the dirt he was talking to his Father. He was asking for the words, the ability to love, the divine wisdom that would clean up the mess in front of him. As he patiently swirled he eagerly listened. As he knelt low he lifted his prayers high and he gave the most beautiful words, the woman and you and I could ever hear.
“Does no one condemn you?”
“No.” she replied.
“Neither do I.”
As I dug in my own dirt, in my yard and in my heart, I rejoiced in the lessons I have learned in my dirtiest seasons. The times when I deserved punishment and was given grace. The times I felt shamed, discouraged and disappointed in myself. The times when I stood at my sink and couldn’t rub hard enough. I remembered the times I was the one doing the dragging of someone elses dirt into the public square. It was disguised as a prayer request or prefaced with a “just between you and me.”
And I weep.
I shed tears of repentance.
I shed tears of gratitude.
I inhale deeply of the fragrance of the grace that rises from the dirt swirled message that our Father God gave his Son, our Savior….
and I pray for its transforming power to take root in the depths of my heart,
dirt and all.
Romans 8:1-2 The Message
With the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, that fateful dilemma is resolved. Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death.