The temperature hit 60 today. Cloudy but 60! And my girls thought that it was summer. I let them run out the door after we got home from running errands like wild animals, and that they did.
We live out in the country surrounded by dirt, tractors, and fields. My kids wear boots on a regular basis, and i have hardwood floors because those muddy boots make their way across the kitchen on the daily.
This day, the weather felt like such a gift. After a never ending winter, the fresh air just slightly cool against our cheeks had us all feeling energized and happy. (Even under the clouds.)
I let the girls develop their own imaginary world about moms and fairies and boats and ponies, and I went to unload our car full of groceries.
A little while later I heard a faint “mom! Mom!” Coming from the back door. My littlest girl, two and a half, can’t open the door quite yet, so I keep an ear out for her little call when she needs me.
As I opened the door I was met by two muddy hands covering her eyes and two words, “hands dirty”. Yes, she had found her favorite thing, mud.
She loves the mud, but doesn’t love her hands caked in it. Which causes lots of problems in a two year old’s world.
Knowing she was going to go right back to the mud, but not wanting to have a lovely two year old melt down, I grabbed a cloth and wiped her hands with an “all clean!” Ta-da to really sell the idea that her hands were clean, even though they weren’t clean clean. Just clean enough.
This happened a few more times.
And then, when she declared being ready for some popcorn, I carried her little shirtless self into the kitchen and to my white farmhouse sink.
She knew the drill. Hands outstretched towards the running water, I took those little chubby hands and began to wash them clean.
Although the mud was dried in layers, the warm water quickly washed them all away leaving behind pink little fingers again.
and then tears welled up in my eyes.
With the mud still swirling around my white farmhouse kitchen sink, she looked up at me with that crazy head of curls and big blue eyes and said in a very serious voice “all clean mom.”
Just like that.
sure, there was still some leftover mud under her fingernails, but all in all, my once covered in mud babe was ready to enjoy her warm bowl of popcorn.
i couldn’t help but feel God in that moment.
life has a way of mudding us up. Our hearts. Our minds. Our lives. Sometimes we knowingly walk over to the mud puddle and sink our hands deep into the cold wet mud. Maybe even again and again. Sometimes the mud comes from others. Just as my four year old came in upset because of her sisters aimless flinging hands that had resulted in mud spots on her cheeks and nose.
Regardless of how the mud got there, I bet we can all agree, that each of us experiences muddy moments in our lives.
And just like the running water and my lightly washing hands against her tiny muddy ones, our Savior does the same for us. He is the running water. His Spirit the other set of hands. Together, they wash us clean from the mud.
We just need to turn on the water. And outstretch our hands. His purifying love is there to wash away our heartaches, our loneliness. Our sin and sorrow. Our frustrations and self doubt. Every pain and tear shed. Carrying around those burdens is just like mud spattered on our cheeks, or between our fingers.
It drips on those around us. It leaves itself on everything we touch. It smudges our relationships, our marriages, our life’s work.
It’s possible to sort of wash it away. Just like I did with the dry towel the first and third time my girl wanted cleaned up. It kind of worked. It pacified her for another few minutes. But she was right back to the mud. As if she knew that a little more wouldn’t hurt what was still left behind.
Mud on our hearts or minds is much the same. mostly using the Saviors atonement may pacify us for a second. It might make us feel a little better. But going back to the mud will be less shocking than the first time. The cold won’t be as cold. The dirt not as dreadful. After all, we’re already sort of muddy, whats a little more?
I love the story in the New Testament found in Luke chapter 17. The chapter starts with Jesus telling his apostles “if ye had faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye might say unto this sycamine tree, be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea; and it should obey you.” Have you ever seen those two things? A mustard seed and a sycamore tree? The mustard seed so small it is barley even there. A sycamore tree so large it seems to never end. It’s leaves as big as my face.
Our faith need not be as big as a sycamore tree to move it. all it takes is mustard seed sized faith to outstretch our hands to the running water of Christ’s Atonement and love. It really does. I know because I’ve been there. Aware of the mud on my hands, but scared to death to reach them to Him. Maybe he’ll turn me away. Maybe I’m not worth it. Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe I don’t matter.
As the chapter goes on we learn of ten lepers standing a far off from Jesus. They call to him. They outstretch their hands. They find faith the size of a mustard seed. I’ve tried to put myself in their shoes. A physical condition so painful and alienating that it has wrecked your whole life. Maybe our circumstances aren’t on the outside. Maybe some other ailment is wrecking our lives. Maybe it’s something we can control, maybe it isn’t. We learn from these lepers, it doesn’t matter how far off we’re standing from Jesus, so long as we raise our voices to Him, he will hear our cries.
He doesn’t tell them to do anything grand or flamboyant. he simple asks them to show an act of obedience, which all ten submit to. And in return they are all ten healed from their physical condition. healed. Just like that.
Have we ever experienced this kind of healing? This kind of purifying? This kind of Love? An immediate relief of burden, pain, and suffering? I have. Not from a physical condition, but of emotional pain. I can’t quite put my finger on the exact moment, or outcome even, but I can say that the dried and caked on mud that once coated my hands are now clean. Perhaps there were many times that my Savior cleansed me. Each time with careful love and empathy. taking care to gently cleanse each part of me. Spiritually. emotionally. mentally.
The thing is, of the ten cleansed lepers… only one turned to glorify God. Just one.
Jesus doesn’t smite down the other 9. Instead takes a moment for this one, and declares that his faith had made him whole. Whole. Not just physically healed, but whole. There’s a difference.
No more mud on hands. No more splatters on cheeks. No more pain and sorrow. Not a trace. Not even under our finger nails.
As the warm water ran over my two year olds tiny and trusting hands, God whispered to my soul, “I am here. To love. To cleanse. To purify. To lift. Always.”