Spring. I love the way that the light lingers through the dinner hour and I no longer feel like my reality is characterized by darkness. I love the warmth of the sun on my face as I listen to the melting snow and ice. I love that our neighborhood bursts forth with new life as we collectively emerge from our sub-zero hibernation.
But I hate the spring mud. It’s so…messy.
I hate the way it squishes under your feet and gets your new shoes dirty. I hate the way it sticks to my kids boots and endlessly tracks through our house. I hate the way it makes our basement feel like a laundromat. I hate the way it confines me to the deck until the earth is better suited for work and play.
This year as winter loosened its grip spring came with its messy mud and death. We said goodbye to our beloved Nana; a gentle and generous soul. She was the heartbeat of our family, occupying such significant space in our hearts that our journey will be forever marked by the grief we now carry.
A short while after Nana’s funeral my kids were playing outside; the warm glow of the sun on their shoulders and their feet ankle deep in that horrible, awful, messy spring mud. Joy poured from their tiny bodies through shouts and laughter. I, on the other hand, wasn’t feeling much joy. I was stressed and agitated as I worried about how to limit the amount of mud that would find its way into my home.
Later that night I vividly remembered how the somber grey hearse pulled Nana out of reach for the last time. I remembered the strange finality that moment carried with it. I remembered resting my head on the casket one last time and how everything in my body ached for one last hug, one last touch, one last word.
As I sat there feeling stuck in the messiness of my grief I recalled the faces of my children as they tromped through the mud. The joy. The laughter. The life. I remembered their invitation, “come and play daddy.” Then I remembered my dismissal of their invitation. What a careless response to the mess in front of them I thought; to play, to dive in, to experience, to embrace and to not worry about how or when the mess would be cleaned up. How irresponsible!
The truth is I missed a moment with my kids because I refused to follow their lead and get dirty. I was far more concerned with cleaning it all up afterwards. I think the same can be true about the messes we face in our lives. We tiptoe around the mud hoping to keep the pain and discomfort at arm’s length or we become ardently consumed with ways to tidy up. We exert tremendous effort in tidying up the grief, the sadness, the hurt, and the mess. We’ve come to believe that life affords us no space or time for messes.
But what if the best thing for us to do is get dirty? What if the most meaningful and significant action we can take is to cover ourselves with mud? What if healing comes as we feel the mud between our toes and under our nails?
Perhaps God cares very much about your willingness to enter the mess and very little about how much mud you sling at him in your hurt and pain and confusion.
Perhaps God eagerly awaits your arrival in the mud pit where your why and how come questions are both welcomed and of no surprise.
Perhaps our entering the mess is entirely necessary for us to grasp that our doubt and grief and anger have no capacity to change our standing as beloved.
Perhaps God is like my children (I think he is), a good god, who sits in the mess and invites you to come and play, if for no other reason than to show you that there’s beauty and life and new beginnings, in all things, and in all of us.