I re-read one of my favorite books again. This one was published in 1989. I’ve re-read this book so much that the spine is broken. I’m amazed yet again by these thoughts. I’m amazed—with this look back—at how much the author John Fischer has influenced my brave faith.
For example, these beautiful words from the chapter “In the Dirt”:
Suddenly righteousness and self-defense turned to dirt in the mouth, and one by one, the dust of departing feet rose and fell back to earth.
And what was Jesus doing during this exodus? Was he watching, gloating, viewing with pleasure the turnabout he had wrought with one well-placed sentence? No. He didn’t see a thing, for he immediately went back to work on his diary in the dirt—this mysterious earthbound exposition.
Only this time it was even more significant, for he left the Pharisees to ponder his words. He delivered his verdict of truth and then removed himself from the situation.
Jesus knew what the outcome would be; he didn’t have to watch. He would talk to whoever was left—whoever was ready and willing. He always allows people the right to come to their own conclusions. No one can be forced to learn before he is ready.
Who knows how long the woman stood there watching him bent over, busy in the dirt? She could have gone too, but she didn’t. Something about him held her. Perhaps she was ready. Finally Jesus straightened up again, and as if returning from some faraway place, spoke to her. ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’
‘No one, sir,’ she said.
‘Then neither do I condemn you. Go now, and leave your life of sin.’
Jesus, the only one who was without sin, the only one ever with the right to throw the first stone, didn’t.
Instead, he wrote on the ground.
And he continues to write in the dirt of every life that stands before him accused. He holds no stones; instead, he is a master artist capable of working with the most earthbound of mediums.
He is practiced in the art of working with the dust of the ground, so he can bend over and write the most beautiful stories on the dust of a life—your life, my life—any life, that is, that doesn’t walk away. –John Fischer, True Believers Don’t Ask Why, p. 100-101
Maybe this is why I teach this story out of John 8 so much. I am so drawn to what Jesus is writing in that dirt, in that dirt of my life. Because my brave decisions and my broken heart are quite the beautiful story.
I was inspired by this in 1989. That is before my marriage, before my boys, before my 25 years of being a youth pastor at one church, before starting a church, before arrests and prison and other unmentionable smashed heart times.
I have decided I’m in need of a Savior, the one who writes beauty in the dirt of my life. The dirt the flower grows through.
Dirt is never still. Never just a pile of dirt doing nothing. As dirt sits waiting for things to be planted and grown, there is still action happening invisibly and silently. Microorganisms are breeding, moving, and eating. Wind and sun and fungi and insects are dancing a delicate dance that leavens the soil, making it richer and better, readying it for planting. (I learned that from Tish Warren Harrison, Liturgy of the Ordinary, another re-read of mine.)
This is the dirt of my life that Jesus is using to write into my story.
Donald Miller has a new book coming out. (Finally, he’s a fave of mine, another re-read.) It’s all about how we are the writer of our stories. Not fate. Not God. We are the one who gets to make the brave decisions—or not.
This is where God is as we write our stories:
What if, instead of writing our stories, God has invented the sunrise and sunset, the ocean and the desert, love and various forms of weather and then handed us the pen to write the proverbial rest?
What if we are much more responsible for the quality of our stories than we previously thought? What if any restlessness we feel about our lives is not in fact the fault of fate, but the fault of the writer themselves and that writer is us?
What if the broken nature of life is a fact, but the idea we can also create something meaningful in the midst of that brokenness is an equal fact? –Donald Miller, Hero on a Mission, p. 4
God made the dirt too for my story. This dirt that is full of life even when it feels like a pile of nothing.
It is up to me to make the brave decisions. It is up to me to lean into the vulnerability, endure through the holy tension, and live this brave and beautiful life. I make the decision that when my heart gets smashed and I can’t get out of bed, I decide to get up. My life is a mix of beautiful and painful. I am very okay with that. My dirt is good and I see Jesus writing in it. I’m not walking away.
(Photo credit from Pixabay)