Living in the Mud
MAY 26, 2020
I stood behind my grandmother’s house staring across an unplanted field to the tree line at its distant end.
Our house was beyond those trees. During the winter you could make it out through the dark, bare and mangled fingers of the trees. The bus had dropped me off from elementary school a few minutes before and I’d decided, for some reason, I wanted to go home. She asked me to be careful and I left.
The hard, upturned earth crumbled under my feet, the occasional clod sending me stumbling. I was hot when I got to the trees, but fine. The canopy of green blocked the direct sun, but the heat had seeped in, settling down on top of me. After only a few feet, the first drop of sweat fell from my nose.
The further I got in, the softer the earth became until my shoes were making sucking sounds as they were released by the mud. But I knew it wasn’t far. I told myself I could make it. Then, I stopped at the sight of a trench that was full of dim water, too wide to jump over, as far as I could see in either direction. I walked its edge for a long time, looking for a narrow spot to cross, making fists, cursing it, looking back the other way, praying for some way home.
There’s a future in my faith that I anticipate. It’s the pie in the sky portion at which those who don’t believe tend to roll their eyes. It’s a time when cheeks will be brushed of all tears by the hands that made them. War, that red gaping sore, mended; violence, bigotry, racism, and hate itself will be so distant we won’t think of them. Death will wither from lack of use and I’ll be made whole. My broken mind, my weak spirit, my tarnished soul.
But now I stand here in these woods, covered in the filth of my best intentions and my worst impulses. My brash choices stinging my pride like mosquitoes blanketing my bare arms. In this in-between, however, we are permitted sparks of the divine. Moments of transcendence. I am daily formed by deft righteous fingers to look more like Him—lying across that wretched muddy ditch so that others might walk across his back to the other side.
That day, my clothes soaked through with sweat, mud climbing up my legs like new vines, my shoes heavy with filth, the darkness faded as the light grew, and I saw the first glimpses of home though the trees. As I entered the front door, the stained clothes peeling away, I felt lighter. I was home, where the cool air pushed the sweat from my cheeks like a consoling hand.
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