Sometimes Often, life gives us dirt; a little pot of stinky mud, or a huge clump of soil thrown in your face. A missed opportunity. A crushing blow. A devastating loss. A life changing event. A huge disappointment. Pain, sickness, fear, debt, loneliness, loss, or death.
I feel like (without trying to engage in self-pity) that parts of my life have been full to the brim of dirt. I’m certain that every single person reading this is thinking of their ‘dirt season’.
Those times, events or even years that were so filthy you couldn’t see beyond it. Perhaps you felt like you were being buried alive; unable to breathe as soil filled your lungs. I certainly know that feeling. Moments where you don’t think you can take another breath because the utter filth of the world, the circumstance, the person, the sin or the pain is crushing your chest cavity.
Maybe for you it’s more just a thin layer of grime? Something that has always, as long as you can remember just blurred your view and you have never been able to wash clean?
I can think of a lot of those moments. Some from when I was very young, some more recent. Times when I couldn’t seem to grasp the beauty of the world or see any good, grace, light or truth because all I could see was the dirt. Times when people hurt me deeply, or life just let me down. Times when death came calling; fear was overwhelming. Times when loneliness was crippling. More recently, times when sickness and weakness would not subside.
BUT, I adore the title quote. I’m not sure who first said it, but I often cling to it, and hope you can too. It’s a difficult and costly concept, but one that surely will bring joy? When life gives you dirt- grow some flowers.
It’s a task that in some cases is far easier than others. It’s one that in the past few months I’ve really been trying to put into practice. Sickness has stripped me of some opportunities, and caused me to feel lacking. So what do I do? Do I drown in it? Roll around in the dirt and know I can’t become clean again? Or do I take that dirt and try and grow something beautiful in it? I try to find seedlings to put in the dirt; more time to spend with God, more chances to take delight in much smaller joys, more time to relax and look to the future. Of course some days I just wallow in it. I can’t see how the dirt can possibly ever be anything other than darkness. But occasionally, I really invest in trying to turn things around; I plant my seeds and in time I see buds, then flowers beginning to bloom.
Over the years I have seen flowers grown from what I could only before see as pure filth. Life events that I once thought would be the end of me, particularly losses and a huge upheaval age 15, have blossomed into beautiful things. My mess has become my message. My tests have become my testimony. I now can describe things that once brought me immediately to tears, with a real conviction that good has actually eventually come from it.
But what about the times you are deep in it. What about ‘those things’ that you think could never be redeemed? …
… Grace upon Grace
“To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for his own glory.” Isaiah 61:3
We can’t do this. We can’t cause the seedlings in the dirt to flower. We can’t pluck the seeds from thin air. But with God’s grace things can be restored, renewed and re born.
I’m currently reading Ann Voskamp’s ‘One Thousand Gifts’. It is full of life affirming truth. She asks the questions I ask myself daily “What in a world of certain loss, is grace?”
“God is always good and I am always loved. All is grace only because all can transfigure.”
-Everything is grace because everything has the potential to be transformed. Isn’t that amazing?
You may still not believe that any flowers can come from your dirt. That the shame, loss, grief, or agony is just too much. That if people really knew how bad it was they could never see flowers in it. I know many times I’ve felt that way. I don’t believe for one second that God gives us these things as a test of our faith, or that the darkness comes from Him. But I do believe in beauty from ashes, in flowers from dirt. I do believe in grace. That He can take anything and turn it to a thing that can bring hope and redemption.
When you’re still stuck in the mud and you see no way out, I recommend 2 things from my reading and own experience. When you’ve planted your seeds but there isn’t a flower in sight:
Gratitude and Worship
Being grateful for even the rubbish things or the tiny insignificant things, or the things that pass us by can open us up to so much joy. I’ve blogged about this before, how simply the attitude of gratitude can change your heart. If nothing else we can be grateful that we have been allowed to live another day!
Worshipping God for who He is, and for all He has done in the past, and for nothing else than the assurance of your salvation, that one day there will be no more tears; in the midst of your darkest times, is an extremely powerful thing.
As Ann Voskamp says “…isn’t my internal circuitry wired to seek out something worthy of worship? Every moment that I live, I live bowed to something. And if I don’t see God, I’ll bow down before something else.”
Don’t bow to the dirt.
Any beauty, good, love, truth, and joy in the world is all a mere reflection of God. When we cannot see that through the dirt, still it strengthens our hearts to worship and praise Him for it until we do. Until the miracle comes.
“Even when it makes no sense to sing; louder then I’ll sing Your praise” (Even when it Hurts Hillsong United, Empires)