The Dirt Between Us

I am a bit of a neat freak. Some would say that I am over the top. If you have a cup in my house, be prepared for it to disappear, because I am likely to pick it up and wash it if it sits for too long (like… maybe 5 minutes). I can’t help it. I got it honestly, and I get a sense of joy when things are neat, clean, and in place.

Things that bug me… walking in the dirt or sand… Ugh – the thought of shoes full of dirt, or having to dust off shoes… it makes me crazy. At the same time, I love places where you find dirt. I love to hike or run in the hills, I love going to the beach, and I love getting in the garden…all while hating the dirt.

Well, maybe not hating the dirt. It’s a matter of perspective.

Perspective. Lately, it is the one thing that has been lacking in the world. I was reading a post by Dr. John Carlos. Many people don’t recognize the name, but bring up the 1968 Olympics, and things will start to come back. John, Tommie Smith and Peter Norman were on the podium, when John and Tommie, the two black men on the podium, held up their hands in what was known as the “Black Power” sign. They were subsequently vilified, stripped of their medals, and banned from competing. They lost everything because they took a stand for something.

This post is not about their stance…

Dr. Carlos reflected on his stance while looking at the stand of Colin Kaepernick. Then the comments came… You would have thought it was 1968 all over again. Hatred, vilification, the refusal to listen, and the ever so prevalent these days, “Unfollow!” People so quick to hate, what they see as someone else’s dirt, that they will completely dismiss the whole of that person so as to not be soiled by them.

I read a story today of a pastor – supposedly a man of peace, one who is supposed to be representing Jesus, who “…is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility” – this pastor used his Sunday message to fuel the fire of division by cutting up his Nike’s, stating he will never wear them again, and vilified Kaepernick, to a cheering crowd of people who are called to be peacemakers.

Have I made you uncomfortable yet? Are you feeling what I feel when the dirt makes its way into my shoes?

How did we as a society come to such a place where our version of reality is so pristine that we are ready to completely ostracize everyone else? Why are we so afraid of, basically, dirt?

Jesus was confronted on one particular occasion by people who didn’t like his version of reality. Let’s forget about why for the moment, but let’s look at their tactics. These “moral, righteous church leaders” found a woman who was caught in the act of adultery. How they happened to find her is the subject of a different message. But why the found her is the issue… they wanted to throw her dirt on Jesus, and have him have to vilify her to protect his (and ultimately their) reputation. That is crazy on so many levels. All of this… basically using her to make themselves look pristine, and to get rid of the dirty one in their midst.

We can see so many examples of this today, and it makes for a hard time of looking through social media.

I love Jesus’ response! First, instead of taking a side, he calls on each of the leaders to acknowledge their own dirt. That was genius in itself. But then, he takes it a step further… he gets in the dirt and starts writing in the dirt with his finger. 

Jesus was not afraid of the dirt. On another occasion, to heal a man, he spat in the dirt, made mud and put it on the man’s eyes. For Jesus, dirt was not bad or good… it just was, and when he needed it it was useful for him.

The religious leaders couldn’t handle Jesus’ willingness to get dirty (and they couldn’t handle the fact that they had their own dirt that made them just like everyone else), so they left. Now, it’s just Jesus and this woman. She’s waiting for judgment, but he gives her what no one else was willing to give: understanding. He was willing to both acknowledge where she was, but not judge the dirt in her life.

That is pretty radical…

There have been studies that freak out neat freaks like me. They say that being clean is fine but to not over do it, because it can have adverse effects.

A new study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that babies who had been exposed to common allergens such as pet dander and roach allergens, as well as common household bacteria, before the age of one were less likely to develop wheezing, asthma and allergies, compared to children that had not been exposed to these substances before age one. – The Alternative Daily

Dr. Robert Wood of the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center says, “certain bacteria and allergens play an important role in stimulating and training the immune system to behave a certain way”. We may actually be cleaning ourselves out of good health. Similarly, in our relationships, our cultures and our societies, the health of our society requires us to be willing to get in the dirt a little. In other words, we need a little bit of stuff not like us to make us stronger and better.


You may not agree with Dr. John Carlos, or with Colin Kaepernick. But being willing to get in the dirt with them, to listen, to understand and to find that common ground, makes each person better, stronger and more healthy. Case in point. It was a military man who initially did not agree with Colin, but was willing to get in the dirt with him to understand why he was doing what he did. This caused both men to develop a stronger and more healthy relationship, not only with each other, but with the issue itself. Colin learned from Nate Boyer, Nate learned from Colin, and we all can learn from their interaction.

The dirt is just piling up in the shoes…

This morning at church, one of the songs we sang for worship was We Need Each Other, by Sanctus Real. The song didn’t say “we need other Christians”, or “we need other “Republicrats”, or “we need other people like us”. It just says, “we need each other“. In fact, the song talks about getting past the fighting, the closed doors/closed-mindedness, and learning to love. Learning to love takes effort – more effort than “unfollowing”, but it yields so much more. it yields deeper friendships, stronger families, better communities, richer people. Learning to love takes getting in the dirt with those around us.

Notable Notables

Kid President is a little too wise for his size :-). He posted 20 things we should say often. I love #4, and here is the short version: “I disagree with you but I like you as a person”. The whole list is good and we should take them to heart daily (even #5… just cuz we need to laugh 🙂 ).

And here is the original of the song we sang this morning.

Portland, OR, USA

2 Replies to “The Dirt Between Us”

  1. Tolerance seems to be an aid for me to see past some of the tiniest amount of dirt. Not only in myself but in others as well.

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