Digging Down and Rising Up
Last week I had the privilege of presiding at the funeral of a gentleman whose life was, among other things, a testament to the sacredness of God in the dirt of everyday life.
He was an “insurance man” and in so many ways a gentleman. He loved to wear a coat and tie. But he was also an outdoorsman, an avid hiker in Arizona and around the country. He also appreciated the value of manual labor. Digging in the dirt. Moving stuff around. His son recalled being a partner in a tree stump-moving project. He and his dad would tinker around in the backyard digging up and moving around trees stumps — sometimes the same tree stump more than once. There was something therapeutic about digging in the dirt, the sweat, and the physicality.
I like this.
In her book, An Alter in the World, preacher and theologian Barbara Brown Taylor wrote a beautiful essay on the sanctifying power of physical labor. In the midst of various circumstances in her life Taylor has found herself farming, defrosting generators, and cleaning toilets.
She has found the presence of the divine in each.
"Digging down,” she writes, “is as good a way to God as rising up. If only because you can feel it in your shoulders... keeping the earth is hard work. You get dirty doing it. You break fingernails and wear holes in the knees of your pants. You wear yourself out. You also remember where you came from, and why. You touch the stuff your bones were made of- ‘from dust you came and to dust you shall return.’ Smell that dirt? Welcome home you beloved dust creature of God."
On her album “The Gathering of Spirits,” singer/songwriter Carrie Newcomer sings,
"Holy is the dish and drain
the soap and sink, the cup and plate
and the warm wool socks, and the cold white tile
showerheads and good dry towels
and frying eggs sound like psalms
with bits of salt measured in my palm
it’s all a part of a sacrament
as holy as a day is spent”
I have been trying to pay more attention to things like dirt, and sunsets, digging in the ground, washing dishes, and the way my towels feel when they first come out of the dryer. I planted some Narcissus bulbs this week and saw the must beautiful sunset from my car window on the way home from work. Life is rich and beautiful, and sacred. God is present in it all.