As I headed out to the canal path yesterday afternoon for my first run since the baby, I was dismayed to find that between winter and spring in New Jersey (and many other parts of the world) comes another less beloved season: the season of mud.
It seemed no sooner had the ground thawed that the bulldozers came to clear the path, pressing the treads of their tires deep into the fresh earth and leaving behind nothing but brown as far as the eye could see.
But as I plugged along, bemoaning the stark landscape and the thick frosting of mud quickly coating my tennis shoes, I caught a whiff of something fresh, crisp, and almost sweet. And as the smell of fresh, earthy mud wafted through my nostrils, I was reminded that beneath that brown soil lay roots, soon to be buds, soon to be new life.
I was reminded that we can’t have the new life without the dirt and the worms and the mud.
We often want to skip over the hard parts in life. In our spiritual lives, we want to be rid of the dark nights of the soul, the calls to accountability, the wandering in the desert. But it’s no accident that Easter falls at the end of the season of mud, which we call Lent, a season caked with sins that can’t be wiped clean unless we unveil them in the light of day.
The other morning in the wee hours while I nursed my baby, I listened to a sermon by our pastor on Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. In it, she asks, what is the dirt that sticks to us when the day is done? (11:00), and who are the people who we would let interact with our dirt? (14:12)
In other words, while Lent is in many ways a personal and solitary journey of coming to grips with our own sin and the sacrifice Jesus made for us on the cross, it’s also a corporate season of sharing our joys, our fears, and our darkness, and of washing the dirt from one another’s feet, just as Christ first washed the feet of his disciples.
So as spring draws near and as we walk through this holy season of Lent together, I encourage you not to eschew the muddy bits of your life, but to let God and others behold that dirt, from which will spring new, eternal life. I encourage you to let Christ lift your muddy feet into his clean hands, and to anticipate the miracle of the cross to come.