John UpChurch, Editor, Jesus.org
Jesus went on from there and walked beside the Sea of Galilee. And he went up on the mountain and sat down there. And great crowds came to him, bringing with them the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute, and many others, and they put them at his feet, and he healed them. (Matthew 15:29-30, ESV)
You've never really walked until you've slogged through red dirt. The stuff joins at the molecular level to your shoes, crawls up your pants, and ruins your socks. So, of course, my brothers and I loved it.
Spending summers in southern Alabama, we knew how to find dirt of every hue and consistency: powdery brown dirt for experiments with firecrackers, smooth white dirt that turned into a sinking quagmire when wet, squishy gray dirt that outlined the creeks, and, of course, that infamous red dirt. It really wasn't that hard to locate.
The red dirt road that passes by my grandfather's house weaves through a series of embankments that seemed massive back then. To me, they appeared something like the Great Red Cliffs of Dover. To my brothers, they were canvasses for faces and colorful words. To my parents, they were an unfortunate but necessary feature of the landscape.
At the end of our summer vacation, we'd pack up our red-stained socks and recently scrubbed shoes and return to our much less adventurous home with much tidier soil—back to paved roads and ranch style houses. This process occurred several times during my youth, but somewhere along the line, I forgot the joy in getting dirty.
Now days, I usually scrub my hands at the first hint of dirt. My socks have much more danger of being mismatched than being stained. And I like my "wild excursions" limited to controlled hiking trips on distinctly marked trails—and only when the weather cooperates.
My younger self would scoff at who I am now and say something about how that old guy doesn't know how to have fun. My younger self might be on to something.
I've forgotten what it means not to worry. When I was young, I would go out and do what needed to be done. Dirt needed to be found, ant hills needed to be blown up, and creeks needed to be crossed. So, I went. I didn't stop to think how much time it would take or if I might get dirty.
Now, unlike then, I follow Christ. I should be just as willing to go out and do what needs to be done. But rather than simply going about the kingdom work, I stop, consider the reasons why I don't want to, and then forget about it. My adventure has become hiding behind my fear.
Intersecting Faith & Life:
When Christ journeyed the length of Israel, He walked. His sandals chaffed, dust caked his feet, and insects buzzed His head. He sweated, and He had no showers. The people who came to Him probably stunk from the heat and fish and whatever else they happened to be around. He humbled Himself from the perfection of His throne to get dirty. God—the Creator of everything—took on flesh so that He could trudge across this dusty earth.
When I think back to my days sinking joyfully in mud pits, I have to wonder why I'm now sometimes afraid to metaphorically get dirty in the work of preaching the gospel, of living for Christ in every single thing I do.
Why does growing up so often steal the joy of red dirt? I don't know. But this is what I do know: today is a day to get that joy back.