Dirt gets a bad wrap. It’s utterly unfair when it comes down to it. What did dirt do to deserve the slander and libel wasted on it? Here are a few examples of our unfortunate bias against dust. “Dirty” is used as an adjective for lewdness and promiscuity, especially pertaining to loose sexuality. And what does it mean to “get the dirt” on someone? It means to find a major moral blemish in that person. Muckrakers looked for “the dirt” on the rich and famous in order to sell books and papers. Mom says, “don’t use those dirty words!”
From the way we have labeled dirt it would seem to be an inherently evil object. But this couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Why did God choose to breathe His image and His Spirit’s life into dust if its qualities are so clearly sinful? Couldn’t he have formed man out of any number of other more dignified objects? He could have chiseled out Adam’s form from a rock and breathed life into it. He could have carved man’s image out of a tree. He could have magically formed water or fire into the physical form of man and have said, “It’s good”. But He did not. Our Creator’s opinion of dirt seems to be fairly high.
He stooped to the ground and got dirty, choosing dust to be the physical vessel of his image. Interesting.
God breathes His Spirit, His very Image into dirt.
Rather than dirt being inherently evil, it may be intrinsically holy. I’m not talking about characteristically neutral. I’m saying that when God chose to breathe His likeness into dirt, He blessed it into a permanently spiritually positive state.
The previous paragraph is confusing, so I’ll try and break it down a little. A stone, for example, is a spiritually neutral object. It can be used to wrongfully kill in an act of head bashing murder, or it can be used to slay Goliath in an act of righteous faith. A stone can help form the base of a wall used to divide people, or it can be used as the cornerstone of a temple of worship. The stone is neutral, but can be blessed or cursed depending on its use
Dirt, however, is specially and specifically blessed. I’m not saying that it can’t be cursed, because it can. But, I am saying that I think dirt is special. Life springs forth from it.
God created the world and the world fell. After the world fell into sin and death, God could have acted in any way that he saw fit. He could have destroyed things completely (the flood without the concluding rainbow) or he could have removed himself from the equation and let the world spin on endlessly without his personal presence or hope (the deistic faith of many of our national forefathers). Instead, he got dirty. He neither fully destroyed, nor ignored. He entered the mess, unafraid of the consequences and breathed His Life into the dust formed body of His only Son, Jesus.
Lucifer isn’t called the angel of dirt. He’s called an angel of light. This means that he likes physical cleanliness. God’s presence doesn’t avoid a dust covered and mud caked orphan. Rather, He invites his disciples into the dust, down from the lofty sanitized seats of earthly kings.
A crack house isn’t disgusting because it’s dirty. A crack house is disgusting because it has been trashed, cursed, and mistreated. And a barn on a farm is often downright filthy, but in a very good way.
My wife always makes fun of me because I like to be clean. She says that, as a first-born child, I have certain high-maintenance requirements; like daily showering. I find this to be rather amusing because, while I do enjoy showering, I also don’t mind getting really, really dirty (as evidenced by this biographical picture from my childhood). In writing this blog I’m not saying showers are evil, but I am saying that ground is holy. Examples of farming are used over and over by Jesus to describe the Kingdom of God. Farming is dirty. And dirtiness might be a lot closer to Godliness than cleanliness.
Dirt, soil, clay, mud and dust all help form the ground we live on and are fundamentally essential to our physical and spiritual existence. Here’s an art piece that my brother Travis Wagner created about God breathing His image into the ground.
Let’s consider altering our vocabulary a bit together. Let’s find better descriptors for wrongful behavior than the word dirt. Dirt is good. Getting dirty is often a requirement of obedience. I want a dirty life. I want a dirty wife. I also want a righteous one, and that is not a contradictory desire.
As I write these thoughts, I’m looking out the window at a cold, damp day. It’s a good day to go splash in some mud puddles with my son. Call me if you’d like to join.