When I travel out of town I often make sure if there is a period of time that I am going to be away I make sure that I attend a church in that area so I can stay…well…. You know…spiritual or something.
It was one of these journeys where I found myself in
. I am pretty sure Dubuque Iowa was a city that was founded by the French. I have nothing to back that up other than the spelling of the name of the city, that and the fact that it rests on the Dubuque Mississippi River.
A totally French River.
It was a Wednesday night and for us Baptists that means it’s a bible study night. How different is that from a church service you ask? Well – not much, except you include a 20-30 minute prayer time which is the best time to find out about people because they ask you to pray for them and their broken washing machines or in this case of the Iowa church – tractors and farm animals.
, it appears they still give nicknames assigned to you per your occupation. So in this church, almost everyone had the nickname “farmer”. They only had to learn my 1 name when they greeted me, and I had about a 95% chance that I would get their name right. Unless there was a Tiller…or a CatBeater. Iowa
After the bible study was underway the Pastor began to relay about a man he knew that worked at a crematorium. I know what you’re thinking “Craig if I hear you tell one more crematorium story I am going to punch you in the mouth!” I know, but hear me out – this one doesn’t end with dead Chinese.
The story goes like this: The Pastor knew this man who owned this business and in the back of the crematorium was the most beautiful garden. The man also kept the garden and people from all over would travel to see the beautiful flourishing plants and flowers. Finally – the Pastor asked “How do you keep this garden so beautiful and healthy?” The man answered that when you incinerate the human body and give it over to the people asking for the cremation, they don’t get all of the …well…stuff. They get what they can – but there is left over …um stuff. The man said it’s basically dirt. The best dirt you can ever find.
Now I get this. Basically we are carbon after you remove all the moisture.
And the Pastor said something on that evening that stuck with me. He said “You know what I don’t understand? After hearing the man tell me about his garden. Why as human beings we think of ourselves as better pieces of dirt than another piece of dirt.”
Wow. No one is any different than the next, especially when incinerated.
It was a humbling view of what as human beings we really are physically.
But that isn’t all we are. C.S. Lewis gives the complimentary viewpoint that adds to what the very base of our existence is of just Dirt.
"It is a serious thing," says Lewis, "to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no 'ordinary' people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations -- these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whome we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit -- immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously -- no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner -- no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment."
So yes, as I understand myself to be dirt, and no better dirt that you as we both would make plants grow well; we are eternal to our very core.
I could give scripture to back that up, but most everyone knows that to be true already. Those who deny that part of their existence have been marred in a way I feel pity for.
I left that night with an altered perspective for the people I would continue to come in contact with in life. At our very base, we are a good fertilizer.
But charged with what Lewis wrote “our charity must be a real and costly love”.
While you know what you are, and what others are, just humbly love. It was one of the last commands Christians were given...