The other day a friend of mine compared me to Felix Unger, the fastidiously neat character in The Odd Couple, the popular film and 1970s television program based on Neil Simon’s play by the same name. My friend made this observation based on often seeing me organizing my desk, cabinets, closet, and files, as well as often washing my hands with alcohol and soap.
Now, before you agree with my friend that I am some sort of weird, neat freak, let me assure you that the reason I organize my stuff so often is precisely because I slip back to messy so easily. Also, I only wash my hands with alcohol and soap when arriving home, having touched money, or having worked in a dirty area. If that makes me weird, then so be it. It is just that I have often gotten colds and infections after not washing my hands, and I tend not to get those things when I do keep my hands sanitized.
You may be wondering what dirt and cleanliness have to do with anything in this site, and you would not be alone. After all, isn’t it much more important to save our souls, obey God’s Will and Law, and follow Christ’s example than keeping our hands clean? As Christ Himself reminded us, it is more important to keep our inside clean than our outside (Matthew 23:26).
Christ is Not Afraid of a Little Dirt
We came from dust, and to dust we will return (Gen 3:19). Our Lord was born in a dirty, dusty place (Luke 2:7) and worked as a carpenter (Mark 6:3) which is not exactly the most immaculately clean occupation. He made mud to heal a blind man (John 9:6) and even wrote on the ground while protecting the woman caught in adultery against her hypocritical accusers ( John 8:6). Christ’s feet got pretty dirty (John 12:3) and he had no problem washing His follower’s feet (John 13:6-9). One would not assume that the poor, sick, and diseased that Jesus helped were living in perfectly clean circumstances. It is a pretty safe bet that Our Lord encountered dirt on a daily basis and continued doing God’s Will regardless. I do not know about you, but when I think of Jesus I do not imagine a man running from a dirty leper screaming, “Yikes, he is dirty!”
We came from dirt, which is our humanity, and Our Lord loves us so much that He took on the outward dirt of our humanity so that He could remove the inner dirt of our sin on a dirty, dusty cross. Thus, we see that the only dirt that God rejects is the dirt of sin (Luke 10:11) but not the dirt of humanity, which He embraces.
Following Christ Means Getting Dirty
Mother Teresa knew a thing or two about dirt; she wrapped herself in it while reaching out to those in most need. Each of us has a mission, a purpose in life which God has designed for us given our particular talents and traits. We cannot serve God without exposing ourselves to both the outer dirt of humanity and the inner dirt of sin, any more than a life guard can hope to save drowning swimmers without getting wet. It is part of the deal, the game, of saving souls. This reality is inherent in what it means to follow Christ. We have to be willing to get our hands dirty if we hope to reach out to those in need. Being a Christian is not about wearing immaculately clean and white uniforms with nice white gloves. It is about selflessly serving others as Our Lord did. Just imagine the absurdity of a man in a spotlessly white uniform and gloves carrying a cross and you will see how inconsistent such an image would be.
As I was writing this piece, I received a call from my plumber and a visit from my sprinkler guy. The sprinkler guy has a thriving business with 800 customers, and he was kneeling in the mud changing a sprinkler head. My plumber often looks like he fell in a sewer when he comes to my house. Imagine if you needed a plumber and had to choose between one wearing a perfectly clean, white uniform and gloves as white as snow and one who was full of dirt. I do not know about you, but I would be suspicious of the plumber who looked like an ice cream man. After all, how good a plumber would he be if he never got dirty?
The dirty truth about salvation is that salvation is dirty business. We are weak, imperfect, and sinful people far removed from the pristine state of our baptism. We also tend to focus too much on the outward, obvious dirt that we wash off with soap and water and not enough on the inner, less obvious dirt of sin on our souls. Most of us would never dream of going a month without a shower, yet many have no problem going a month without going to confession. In fact, most people worry more about washing their car than their soul.
Being a good Christian means we will need freqeunt washing, both on the outside as well as the inside, because saving souls means we often have to take our gloves off.
2016 Gabriel Garnica