I do not, in general, like to get dirty. I’m sure I could delve deep into my past to discover the reason behind this, but it doesn’t change the fact that I like to be clean. I don’t like to go a day without showering. I don’t like it when I’m walking after it rains or snows and dirty water splashes up on my legs from my shoes. I don’t buy jeans that look dingy, however stylish they may be. And I don’t like it when dirt sneaks in under my gardening gloves. I just don’t like dirt. As a parent, my personal dislike of dirt has been transferred to my son in that I don’t like him to be dirty either. I don’t like it when his hair starts to get flat, or when dirt starts to collect under his fingernails. I don’t like it when he spills food on his clothes, or when he smears his food all over his face and hair. It bugs me. And no matter how hard I try, I can’t just let it be. However, this past week, I found myself reconsidering my stance on dirt.
We spent a day with some friends in Kirksville, Missouri last week. They have a beautiful old Victorian home with a spacious backyard flowing out from a wide wooden deck. The evening of our visit was spent outside on the deck enjoying the warmth of an early summer evening. While we adults sat around and talked, the children were running free in the backyard, playing in a sandbox and with the garden hose. My son, who is now one, was crawling around all over the deck. When the time came to go inside and get the children settled for bed I noticed that my son was filthy. Not only were his knees dirty, but his shorts, shirt, feet, hands and face were all smeared with dirt and sweat. My initital instinct was, of course, to give him a bath. But as I looked at his tired face I realized that he was perfectly content in his state of dirtiness. The dirt he was covered in meant that he had been doing things, important things. He had been exploring and investigating a brand new world. He had been driving a fire truck and delivering water balloons to a newfound friend. He didn’t mind the dirt. It was part of the experience of reveling in the summer evening.
As I lay in bed that night, a thousand similiar summer evenings of my own childhood flashed through my mind. I remembered playing outside until the sun set and the street lights came on. I remembered riding bikes through mud puddles and playing in a gravel drive. I remembered using the swimming pool as a big bath tub and going to sleep surrounded by the smell of chlorine mixed with sweat. Those were beautiful days… days of meaning… days of accomplishment.
In her book, Recieving the Day, Christian writier Dorothy Bass talks about reclaiming the Sabbath. She states that on the Sabbath, it is important to celebrate and revel in God’s creation, for God created everything of life on this planet and declared that all of it was good. By reveling in God’s creation, we connect with God and bring glory to all that he made. This, I would say, includes dirt. We were created of dirt and to dirt we will return, so what does it matter if we carry a little of it with us along the way? I guess a little bit of dirt never hurts. Maybe it can even be good for the soul.
Blessings and Peace,