Good News About Dirt

20 May

My grandson recently created a small garden on the side of his house. In the midst of all the stucco homes in a large residential area, right in the middle of the Sonoran Desert, there is now a little patch of green things struggling to live through the fast approaching summer heat. Since we don’t have traditional grass in our yards, he had to scrape away the decorative rocks that cover the ground, then dig down into the hard packed soil. I wasn’t there to see him do this, but I’ll wager that during the tough project he got a load of desert dirt under his fingernails. I hope so. And I hope he might have thought about the dirt as more than an obstacle to overcome, but as a friend who holds his, and our, history.

You probably know that in the Hebrew scriptures, in the book called Genesis, there are actually two creation stories. And they are quite different. In the first one, God has a very linear plan: on the first day this is made, on the second day that. Everything is rather neatly arranged and calculated on through the whole creation process. But the second story is really a story. It is an unfolding of emotion and feeling with a sense of tenderness. Here the creator scoops up a measure of the earth, common dirt, and shapes it into a living being. It’s living because “breath” is puffed into this lifeless creation by Life itself. Try to imagine that wonderful scene in your mind. How different it is from the rather rigidly programmed approached described in creation #1. Some have said that the first creation event is very “male” – rather analytical, structured and organized, while the second depiction is quite “female”. It is tender, much more sensitive and appealing. It’s like a bedtime story instead of a set of construction blueprints. Male? Female? God? I conclude that the Creating Force we name God is without gender, or put another way, is both male and female in every aspect of putting together this wonder-filled reality we call life.

But the thing I like most about the second story, my favorite one, is that God takes earth in hand and makes life…you and me. Common earth, ordinary dirt, is the source of our history. We all come from the same place. We are all related to each other. We belong to each other because we come from the same source. What a marvelous metaphor.

I hope my grandson looked at the dirt under his fingernails before he washed his hands for lunch. I hope it will occur to him that all creation comes from the same beginning, and if that is true, that all life is connected, sacred, and of inestimable value. At age 13, he will need that foundational truth in order to care lovingly for the earth and all that calls earth home.

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