Have you ever tried to make a mud pie without water? Now, I’m not talking about that decadent dessert served with knife and fork. I’m talking ooey gooey mud pie shared from one hand to another, slapped together with a satisfying smack, adorned with rocks and sticks and stones, and left with a quiet shake to dry on the curbside.
You can’t make it without water. You can’t make it without embracing the muck.
You can’t have fun without the risk of getting a little dirty. In fact, fun is even more fun when the dirtiness isn’t just a risk, but an expected outcome or aspect to whatever fun you are about to get into. This isn’t just fun that we’re talking about here though, is it? This is true of any experience. We can’t always know or control every aspect of life before, after, or as it happens. And that’s a big thing that keeps us from getting into it.
Some of us can’t get into it because we’re waiting for someone else to go first. Just how mucky is it? Will it really be worth it? Is it really going to be as great as they say it is?
Some of us can’t get into it because we’re already thinking ahead to the place beyond the moment – the place where the stains don’t come out and the brush won’t reach and nothing will be the way it was before we jumped into it.
Some of us can’t get into it because it’s just gross. We like things the way they are. We like to be clean. We spent money on these shoes and we’re gonna get our money’s worth!
But some of us are just waiting for our moment. We see the puddles forming. We see the dirt turning to mud. We know that pretending it’s not there, walking around it, protecting ourselves from it, doesn’t change the fact that it is there. It doesn’t change the fact that things happen and sometimes you end up right in the muck. So why not just go for it?
When we follow the Way of Christ, we follow Christ into the muck. We go to the places that are not always clean or popular. We go to the places that do not always keep us comfortable or in control. But in this following, we join a movement that is over thousands of years old. A movement that is not confined to our time or geography. In our following, we also become leaders. The more of us who stand in the muck, the more attention we draw there. The more attention we draw there, the more easily we can interrupt the patterns that have been left to fester, and the more easily we can point out the new things that might be-can be-will be-are being formed there.
Then he said to them all, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it. What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose or forfeit themselves? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words, of them the Son of Man will be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. But truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.’ – Luke 9:23-27
This is an intense passage. Every time I read it I imagine the disciples sitting with frozen, quizzical looks and a length of awkward silence abruptly broken by someone clearing their throat. I imagine this so clearly because it happens pretty much every time I read it with my youth group. Yet, once we begin to talk about it, the quizzical looks turn quickly to fascination as we discuss together WTH Jesus even meant by taking up their cross daily. Basically, Jesus is saying, “Get into the muck.”
Here, as we look ahead to Holy Week, we see what he might have been talking about.
Get over yourself. Get into the muck.
Get over your stuff. Get into the muck.
Get over being right. Get into the muck.
Get over being clean. Get into the muck.
Get over your fear of death. Get into the muck.
Get over your fear of being alone. Get into the muck.
Get over your fear of being a leader. Get into the muck.
Get over your fear of being a follower. Get into the muck.
Get over your fear of pain and sadness. Get into the muck.
The list can go on and on. Take a minute to write your own muck list. What is Jesus calling you to get over so you can get into the muck?
Jesus road a donkey right into the muck.
Will you follow Jesus?
What patterns of death do you see in our world, on our streets, hidden behind doors, or shouting in microphones? Who are our brothers and sisters that have been left alone, silenced, and ignored? Where are today’s crucifixion sites? It is to these places, to these people, that Jesus walks. It is in these places and with these people that Jesus calls us to follow him and stand.
We stand together in the muck. We become muckrakers of the soul, exposing the death designers and interrupting the voices of death that shout for attention. We plant our lives there, where the fruit of the Spirit takes root, where the life of Christ shines resurrection, and where a new creation is always the final answer. Truly, it is in the muck where some of us may stand and not taste death before seeing the Kingdom of God. So get into it.
This is the second installment of a series. Check out the first installment, “Dusty Ones”