Sabbath Sitcom: Face-Up and Fully Alive

When God was handing out green thumbs, I apparently got in line for wilted twigs.

Six years have passed since I bought my first potted plant. Eight ferns, four majesty palms, three peace lilies, and many other green leaves later, I've presided at as many funerals for flora as for people. Most of the plants fell victim to a condition I call PUN (Pastor's Unintentional Negligence). I either forgot to give them water in the heat or shelter in the cold. Yes, I failed Jesus' commands in the greenhouse, but I try to do better with people!

On my day off, I was standing at the living room window, cup of coffee in hand, and said to Isaac, "We're going to take care of the yard today." His tail thumped the couch, which I translated as, "Sounds good -- as long as I get string cheese afterwards."

I moved the sunporch's potted plants to the backyard and soaked them. I carried the 50 feet of orange hose around the yard. Teddy bear magnolias and shrubs gulped their drinks. I hummed with the wind, rejoicing in the hope that my thumbs could still turn as green as the baby tomatoes. The vegetable garden patiently waited its turn. I turned off the water and plugged the hose into a spritzing device with a push-handle. (Gardeners, please forgive my poor knowledge on outdoor devices.) I turned on the water and pushed the handle. Nothing but a brief spray. I turned the faucet to full blast. Press. Still no water. I grabbed the handle, held it in, and twisted the device off--without turning off the water or loosening my grip on the handle. A spring erupted from the hose, a burst of water pelted my eyes, and a pop-up shower washed over me. Dropping the hose, I ran and turned off the faucet, water seeping off of me like melting icicles.

I unscrewed the hose from its water source, wrapped it in circles over my shoulder and trudged to the weary Crepe myrtles in the front yard. I stepped over a thorny bush to hook the hose up to another faucet. Success! The crepe myrtles drank. The grass around them perked up.

I turned off the water and knelt in the dirt. I tried to unscrew the hose from the faucet. Nothing. It would not budge. I tried using both hands. Nothing. "Maybe I should turn it the other way," I thought to myself. Duh. That only made the connection tighter. I stood up on my feet, grasped the hose with both hands, and with all my muscles twisted the hose. It finally budged; and so did I. I fell backwards into a bush, tumbled from one foot onto the other and landed face-up in the dirt. Isaac, who had escaped from the backyard through an open gate, was suddenly standing over me -- smiling, drooling, and wagging his tail.

Soaking wet, lying in the dirt, staring at the slice of sunshine behind my dog's panting face, I closed my eyes. I inhaled. I exhaled. I remembered a hike with friends at Natchez State Park last year. That day, while I was shaking bugs from my hair and slapping leaves off my jeans, my friend, Stephen, had said, "I love the dirt. It reminds me that I'm alive."

As I lay between bush and house, my wet shirt soaking the dirt bed into mud, I can't say I "loved" the dirt. But in the past hour I had felt peaceful, frustrated, happy, angry, joyful, and a little tearful--all pieces of being fully "alive." Every Ash Wednesday, I declare to Spirit seekers, "From dust you came, and to dust you shall return." We don't need to wait until our last breath to return to the dust. We can daily return to dust and the awareness of our mortality. We can collapse to the earth. We can fall into the arms of God with our tears, our laughs, our songs, and our outbursts.

Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground,
And breathed into his nostrils the breath of life;
And the man became a living being.
*

I wrapped my arms around Isaac and pulled him to the ground beside me. I laughed. He played. Mud, dirt, and water washed over us. And we were fully alive.

all good things to each of you,
Pastor Darian

* Genesis 2:7 (New Revised Standard Version)