This is an article that appeared in the Bennington Banner. Here’s a link to the Banner site:
It’s been a long winter, a winter that felt like it was going to drag on until Memorial Day. But sure as anything, the weather is (a little) warmer, the snow is (almost all) gone, and I don’t see anything in the forecast that looks like the next nor’easter is going to dump a ton more on us, so I’ve done a bold thing.
I’ve taken my ice scraper out of the car.
I know. I’m a crazyperson.
But I can’t help it. The other day, what a glorious day! Mid-60s, beautiful, I was out driving, enjoying being able to put the windows down. I got home, still in that wonderful spring mood, stepped out of my car, and…
I was wearing Crocs. Don’t judge.
I should say, I was wearing a Croc. Because the second I stepped out of the car, my right Croc got sucked off my foot by, you guessed it, the mud. I saved the Croc. It wasn’t sucked down into the earth, never to be seen again. But at the same time, in order to keep myself from faceplanting in my driveway, I put my recently de-Croced foot down, and it sank into the mud.
That feeling, that good, “it’s finally Spring” feeling, I won’t say it vanished, but I will say it was somehow diminished.
I’m not a native Vermonter. I’ve only been here since last summer. But I spent a couple years in Maine, and the concept of “mud season” isn’t foreign to me. I went through it there, and I’ll endure it here.
But it’s still annoying.
That mud, that feeling that you’re somehow sinking, that the world has a grip on you that won’t let go, and if you’re not careful it will pull you down into something awful, it’s unpleasant, to say the least. It’s unpleasant when we’re talking about mud season in Maine or Vermont, actual mud that pulls at your boots (or Crocs). It’s unpleasant when we’re talking about the earth’s mud.
It’s far worse when we’re talking about the mud of the world.
You know, the things of the world that can drag us down. Greed. Jealousy. Pride. Violence. Anger. The desire for revenge. The quest for power. There are a lot of ways the mud of the world can pull us down. And the mud of the world has this horrible habit of being somewhere we don’t expect it, just waiting for our unsuspecting foot to step out of the proverbial car and get sucked in.
Mud is an apt metaphor for the condition we call “sin,” turning away from God’s desires for our lives, toward what our society tells us is a more fulfilling way, and away from what is truly the better way: the way of God’s grace, made manifest for us in Christ Jesus.
But while this mud season is still underway, I’d like to reframe the discussion. I don’t like mud. I don’t like losing footwear of any kind, and I don’t like the feeling of muddy socks between my toes.
But mud isn’t always bad.
In the Gospel of John there’s a story of a man born blind. He’s lived his whole life within the bounds of touch. He’s never been able to see a smile or a sunrise, a flower or a bird in flight. He’s never seen the faces of his family, and his condition makes him an outsider to his neighbors. He’s never been able to see mud, and so he’s stepped in it a thousand times.
This man comes to Jesus. Without being asked, Jesus spits on the ground, stirs the saliva into mud, and spreads it on the man’s sightless eyes. Go, he says, and wash. And when the mud is washed from his eyes, suddenly he can see.
And his world is opened up.
Mud can be a nuisance, and I’m not gonna lie, I’m looking forward to when it’s all dried up.
But the story of the man born blind shows us that even the things we can’t control, even the saddest and most unfortunate of events are not beyond redemption. God can use even the deepest, most dangerous muds to demonstrate his love for us.
God does not mire us in the mud of this world. When we feel temptation, when we experience pain, or when things just seem to go wrong, that’s not God’s work. That’s just life.
But in Christ we have the promise that even the worst of circumstances can be washed clean by his grace, and when we’ve washed away the mud of this world, like the man born blind, we, too, will be able to see clearly once more.