Life often seems to be an uphill journey, doesn’t it? Seems we get almost where we need to be and then life comes and trips us up again. You know how that feels, too, I’m sure. And when life happens and the trip-ups seem to come one right after another, I sometimes just feel like giving up. I feel like sitting down in the mud and taking my rightful place in the mire of life. Why fight the constant onslaught of life? Why not just admit defeat and let the many different tough spots of life play out as they will? And so I sat.
Last month I wrote a post about marriage. When I started writing here, I told God that there were two things I never wanted to write about – marriage and missions. How interesting that my most-read post, of all time, was this one about marriage. That post received ten times more views than any other post I’ve ever written. And that was inside of two weeks.
And then life tripped me up again. And again. And again.
I gave up fighting. I sat down and wallowed in the dirt and filth that was “my situation“. And I’ll tell you, that’s really ok.
I’ve had some wise people speaking into my life this year, and one of the things that I’ve learned, that I’ve truly taken to heart, is that it’s okay to feel your feelings. I know, that really seems so simplistic. However, I tend to plow through a problem, stuff my feelings, and keep on going. Sometimes, though, you just have to stop and feel the feelings, especially when you can’t control the situation, no matter what.
And so I sat.
I sat in the dirt. I stopped fighting the seemingly constant onslaught of the tough stuff. I stopped exhausting myself trying to fight back, trying to plow through, and I just sat and waited.
I’m not a fan of dirt. I see it as a nuisance that causes problems, creates a mess, and generally is just unwelcome.
But when you’re at a place in life where the best option is to just sit down in the dirt of life and wait to see what happens, you tend to start to see things a little differently. See, you can sit and see the dirt. You can speak out in frustration against the battering ram of life. You can cry the tears – the angry tears, the sad tears, the gut-wrenching tears that make you pretty sure you’re going to fall apart, literally.
Sitting in the dirt is one thing – it’s messy, frustrating, and a general nuisance.
Crying tears into the dirt, though, seems to make it worse because now you don’t just have dirt, you have MUD. Dirty, sticky, yucky mud. It stays caked on, it gets crusted on to clothing, skin and hair.
And somewhere, inside me, the whisper:
“Find the beauty.”
And I answer back, “Beauty? Are you serious? Do you see where I am?”
I furiously try to scrape the mud off my pants. My cheek itches and in a moment of forgetfulness, I reach up to scratch it. Mud…face…frustration. I wipe at it with a clean wrist. All I do is smear the mud. Frustration, more tears, anger at where I am.
Again, I hear it: “Find the beauty.”
I turn my face to the sky and shout,
“HOW CAN THERE BE BEAUTY IN THIS?”
Internally I lash out against the reminder, the direction, to find beauty. Why should I find beauty? How could there possibly be beauty when life slings junk at us?
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
That still, small voice seems to taunt me now, as I rub muddy hands together, trying desperately to get clean. A little ball of mud falls off my hand. A small success. And then another ball – right there beside the first one. Without even thinking, I make a third ball and stack them like a snowman.
“There. HA! Beauty. Yup…a muddy, dirty snowman. You want me to find beauty? THERE’s your beauty,” I fire back at that inner voice in me.
He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end. -Ecclesiastes 3:11
I glance down at the snowman. The mudman. Maybe it’s not beautiful, but at least it adds a little “character” to my situation.
My hands work to create another snowman – mudman. I think about eternity. How our concept of time is nothing compared to God’s concept of time. How so often, we think that this is all there is.
We want the good job, the right house, the decent appearance, the perfect number of kids, and it’s even better if they’re perfect kids. Yes, we want to know Jesus, love Jesus and share Him with others, but the good things can sure get in the way of the great things, can’t they? We take our eyes off of Jesus and we start to worry about, and panic through, all that life throws at us.
Like I shared before, I can’t guarantee marriage. I can’t promise you’ll have good kids. I don’t know where you’ll lay your head tonight.
But I can remind you, as I remind myself, that those are all good things. Really good things! But they aren’t what we’re here for.
They’re temporary, they’re not the eternity-focus that we’re supposed to have. Yes, we can use those things to have an influence for eternity, but having a good job isn’t getting me to heaven. What I do with that job, the people I bless with my talents, with words from God – that’s what counts for eternity.
As I look back at the mud, I see that I’ve created a little family of mud people. It’s pretty lame, I admit. Small potatoes in the grand scheme of things, until the shadow falls.
I look up to see a fellow traveler, covered in dust, clearly battle-weary with a tear-stained face. She stops and looks. She just looks. There’s no judgment, but you can tell she’s thinking.
I try a smile and a slight shrug of my shoulder. “What else would I do in the mud but create little mud people,” I wonder out loud, more to myself than to her.
I manage a meek, “Hi.”
She offers a half-smile and much to my surprise, she sits down beside me in the mud. She doesn’t say anything, but picks up a small piece of stick. She takes my lame mud-family and delicately brings them to life with the addition of facial features. As I watch, she glances up, just to see if I mind. I quickly busy my hands with another mud-baby. I’m not very artistic, I never have been.
My plain mud people quickly come to life. This new friend has so much to add to my silly little attempts at a creation. She even finds a way to fashion a beautiful flower to “plant” beside the mama mud lady.
She whispers so I can just hear her, “This isn’t ever where I wanted to be.”
I venture a quick glance, tears already in my eyes. “Me neither.” It’s all I can say.
We’re quiet for a moment, until another shadow creeps up to the edge of our sunlight. We all steal a glance at one another. She doesn’t stay long, that one. She’s gone just like that. A tear falls – I’m not even sure why, maybe because I thought she could be another friend.
And just like that, she’s back. With more friends. And sticks.
I watch as she fashions a house for our mud people. I admire the way her hands weave the sticks together to form a small mud-home for our little mud-family creation.
I take a breath, acknowledge the heaviness in the air and offer, “Life’s really hard sometimes.”
The responses are a mixture of grunts and mm-hmmm’s.
I tell them of the still, small voice that told me to find the beauty, even here in the mud. I tell them that now, as we create together, I feel connected to them, bound by whatever circumstances got us to where we all decided to give up and stop fighting life.
No one has to look around to know the tears are falling. You can smell the salty tears in the little mud world we’re creating. You can see the splash as yet another tear hits the dirt to form the mud we’re creating with.
Summoning a little more courage, I begin to tell them a little of my story. I share just the basics – sharing is still so hard. But I don’t neglect – I won’t neglect – the important part.
I choose just a few words and tell of the hope, despite the situation. We’re travelers, pilgrims on the journey. Where we are, is not where we’re supposed to stay. But wherever we are, can prepare us for where we are headed next. I tell them that I’m sure that God can take what we have and turn it into something to bless others, if we just keep listening to Him.
After all, if we can create beauty here in the dirt as our tears turn it to mud, then we can find beauty in our life.
This mud puddle isn’t our final destination. We’re just pausing to rest. Life can continue to fly in all directions around us, we’re resting and choosing beauty.
And look, God’s using us even in the resting.
I couldn’t focus on God’s beauty, and that He makes everything beautiful in its time, while I was doing battle with life. I couldn’t focus on eternity because I was too busy waging war with the world. I couldn’t do any of it successfully.
I threw up my hands, cried my tears, and so I sat.
And even there, God used me.