Dirty Work

Oct 17, 2023

Gardening is dirty work. After all, your workspace is literally . . . dirt.

For many, getting their hands dirty is what compels them to the work. The satisfaction derived from connecting to the soil is second to none. We always find it amusing that, when we bust new ground, the grandkids all like to run barefooted through the damp, clumpy soil. Kids and adults alike are drawn to freshly tilled soil, but soon the sun comes out, the wind blows over the top and the soil becomes hard and dry. Working the land becomes laborious.

Whenever we are going to work in the gardens, I like to tell my husband that I have on my “dirty clothes.” I never say that I’m wearing my work clothes or my old clothes. I call them my “dirty clothes” because I know that, from start to finish, I am going to be dirty.

There are times when being dirty is fun like when you’re a kid making mud pies or off-roading in a cool vehicle, but most of the time, being dirty is not fun. When we work, we try to remain as clean as possible, but we almost always end up a mess. We drag out the garden hoses and have water available to clean things up as we go. We start with clean tools and wash everything after we finish using them.

No matter how much planning we do, how much preparation we put in, something almost always happens that causes us to have to get dirty. Being clean and staying clean while gardening is practically impossible, and if you do stay clean then you probably aren’t working very hard.

On the flip side, the single most important element in a garden is the soil. Years ago, when I first started gardening, I focused on buying healthy plants and quality seeds and thought that was the key to success. It didn’t take long for me to learn that you can actually buy low-quality plants and cheap seeds and still have amazing results if you have good soil.

Today, my focus is not on the plants and seeds but rather on constantly building good soil. For more information on soil ecology and no-till gardening, check out this great handbook.

Have you ever noticed that living your Christian life is very similar to gardening? No matter how hard you try, how carefully you plan and how much you prepare, you end up in the middle of a situation or circumstance that requires you to put your dirty clothes on and go to work for the Kingdom of God.

In a garden, the work is dirty, but it’s not really all that complicated. Unfortunately, life is not like that. Deeds are done. Words are spoken. Feelings get hurt, and relationships need mending. Life can get messy and complicated, and the dirtiest of all work is forgiveness.

God calls each of us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Matt. 22:39, “The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” Even though some of us have amazing neighbors who are easy to love, we all know that this word “neighbor” is not necessarily referring to our physical next-door neighbor! It’s people in general.

It’s the rude checker at the general store who didn’t speak to you, the careless waitress in a restaurant and the impatient person in the car behind you. It’s anyone and everyone who challenges you to demonstrate self-control and show the love of Christ.

When we garden we equip ourselves to succeed. We wear the right clothes, we take the right tools, we go with the right mindset. We know that the work will be dirty but we are prepared and we embrace it. Actually, we love it!

While passing through this life, we honor Christ and bring glory to His name when we do the same. We wear the right clothes (Eph. 6:10-18); we take the right tools (Heb. 4:12); we go with the right mindset (Rom. 8:5-8). We know that the work will be dirty, but we are prepared, and we embrace it. Actually, we love it!

As you serve Him you’re going to get dirty, but God will “Equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen” (Heb. 13:21).