I love to play in the dirt. There is something truly relaxing about getting my hands dirty. Whether it’s repotting a plant or working in the garden, it doesn’t matter, the result is always the same… deep breath, slow, relaxing exhalation, followed by pride in a job well done; and of course, a trip to the sink to wash the dirt away. I can feel the stress sliding into the sink along with the dirt. The two become entangled and swirl around the sink in an enchanted dance before disappearing into the drain. I am by no means and expert in dirt play, but I am learning and I have more successes than failures, so that is progress.
The only negative to my dirt playing is that I want to play in the dirt on my terms. It’s only relaxing if I get to choose the time and place for playing. If not, then it becomes work. We are currently puppy sitting for a friend who is away on business. Not a big deal, glad to do it, but… it has been raining for 4 days and the puppy, along with our slightly older puppy and two adult dogs, could not go outside for longer than the time it took to relieve themselves. (We do have a dog house, but it is apparently a single dog dwelling because the one dog who uses it refuses to share.) Yesterday was my day off from work, so I had a full day of errands, teaching bible study, etc. planned. After do the morning school drop off I disappeared into my bedroom to leisurely prepare for my day. I emerged from the bedroom, armed with my to do list, refreshed and ready to go. I rounded the corner and stepped into my dining room to gather my things and this is what greeted me.
I was not quick enough with my camera to capture the two culprits in action. They ran in terror. I suppose they ran in response to the thunderous roar that erupted from my lungs. I was so upset, I simply left. I gathered my things, left the back door open and walked out. I had a schedule to keep and playing in the dirt was not on that schedule, it would have to wait.
I finished my list and returned home, dreading the walk through the door; I had no idea what additional fallout waited for me on the other side. Fallout that I had no one to blame but me. I left the door open for the dogs to walk in and out of all day, in the rain. It was going to be a mess. I was not disappointed, it was most definitely a mess. I changed into my dirt playing clothes and then just stared at the mess trying to decide where to start. What was originally a back door project had grown into a full fledged cleaning of the dining, living, hall and kitchen floors. My dirt playing clothes just became work clothes… yuck!
It took about an hour and an amazing thing happened. Somewhere in the process of working, I began to play in the dirt. As I cleaned I discovered that the plant had not been completely destroyed. There were still a few strong leaves attached to the root balls that could be replanted. My cleaning project just became a rescue mission. I was on a search for more survivors and my vision for the project changed. I cleaned the dirt with a gentle intention instead of a furious sweep. I located a proper vessel to replant the abused, but still alive plants. I gathered the strewn dirt to add the pot as the foundation for growth. What I originally saw as a complete loss still had potential and could not be thrown out with the trash. I used the opportunity to bring in a warm weather, root bound plant from my porch and gave it a new home in the recently vacated larger pot and here is the result.
I learned some important lessons during that one hour dirt play. Number one is that I don’t always get to choose which dirt I want to play in and when I want to play in it. Sometimes God has to schedule a little play time to get into the areas of my heart that need replanting. Sometimes it’s about my choosiness. I am guilty of looking at people as piles of dirt and judging whether or not I am going to play with them based on their appearance. Is getting dirty with them going to be work or will we be playing along the way?
Secondly, I learned that I can’t look at a pile of dirt and automatically decide it is a lost cause. There might be damaged goods underneath all that dirt. Goods that simply need a loving hand to dig them out and guide them through rinsing and the process of replanting. I can not bull doze my way through. I have to approach every pile of dirt as a rescue mission and be on the look out for survivors.
Thirdly, I learned that a dirt scattering, traumatic event can be gathered and used as a foundation for growth. My mission is not only to look for and rescue survivors, but to help them gather the scattered pieces of their lives to form a solid foundation that promotes growth.
And lastly, I am to fortify their ability to grow by setting a barrier between them and the enemy of their souls. I am to protect them through prayer. My responsibility does not end with the rescue or when the foundation is complete. I have to become a protector. My prayers are necessary to place a barrier around them as they plant new roots and grow stronger.
I encourage you today not to avoid playing in the dirt. Rather than seeing people as a nuisance or a distraction, or even a useless pile of dirt, look at every person as a rescue mission. Pray that God would allow you to see their potential and not their mess. Find ways to encourage and help them rebuild a firm foundation that has learned from mistakes. Don’t assume that anyone is a lost cause to be thrown out with the trash. “Go play in the dirt, life is too short to always have clean fingernails!”