Dirty Hands….for Good or Evil?

By Marcy Barthlette

Hands have always conveyed a powerful image for me. As I write, my hands are clean and swift on the keyboard, but a few hours ago, they were deep in the dirt. It’s that time of year when perennials find themselves moving to new homes in preparation for hearty spring growth. It’s also one of the things I like best about perennials, much of the maintenance surrounding them can and should be accomplished in fall when other gardening projects are winding down. Transplanting them now allows for healthy root spread over the winter and gives them a jump start next year. Come spring, we will be cleaning up from winter, planning vegetable gardens, and gathering annuals for a big splash of landscape color. Mowing will be seemingly out of control for weeks and summer activities always color the landscape of our lives.

But now, life is slowing down, finding its comfortable ruts and that’s a relaxing departure from the craziness of camp and vacations, baseball, and swimming. After all, football is predominantly a weekend sport so that leaves lots of hours for dreaming about how the lawn should flow into the coming year. In truth, I’ve been pondering my changes for the past few weeks, envisioning how this area will look if I transfer that plant to another location. I am blessed with a good eye for imagining how things will appear when refigured but I had to wait for cooler mornings and evenings in order to put my plans in motion.

As I write, I have completed all my proposed changes and am elated with the new look. When the plants come into full growth next year, it will be lovely. I’ve spent many hours crawling on hands and knees and have acquired the requisite amount of bruises for my effort. And as for my hands, I’m seldom happier than when I can hold those filthy trophies high in triumph and can share some bulbs or starts with friends and neighbors. A clean and polished gardener can be equated to a skinny chef. It’s hard to be successful in the kitchen without sampling the product along the way and it’s impossible to maintain healthy plants without getting your hands into the action. To this gardener, dirty hands are a measure of dedication. Of course, next year the process begins all over again. I’ll see the landscape in a new light and playing in the dirt will once again reign supreme in our yard. That’s another beautiful attribute about perennials; they adapt quite well to change as long as we provide the needs they crave.

But those who do right will continue to do right, and those whose hands are not dirty with sin will grow stronger. Job 17:9

It would appear that Job had a different approach to dirty hands. Perhaps he was concerned about the way humans claw at each other to reach the top of the power ladder first or the way in which we treat a neighbor who doesn’t look like us. It could be that he was thinking of unkind words spoken in anger or behind someone’s back. Whatever kind of metaphorical dirt covers our hands and our hearts, it needs to be washed clean and only God can do that. He will if we just ask.

Oh, the power of our hands. Leave them unmanaged and they become weapons: clawing for power, strangling for survival, seducing for pleasure. But manage them and our hands become instruments of grace — not just tools in the hands of God, but God’s very hands.  Max Lucado, Just like Jesus

I once compiled a photo essay of hands getting dirty to serve others. There were master gardeners helping to beautify neighborhoods and establish community gardens. Images of handymen making repairs for seniors or working alongside others who were unable to get the job done on their own. A very poignant image showed the hands of a server in a soup kitchen passing sustenance into the hands of a hungry and very grateful recipient.

And there were hands busy preparing bags of non-perishable food goods for starving people in the far reaches

of our globe. These images, among others, solidly proclaimed the message that one picture is worth a thousand words and that dirty hands are often a requirement of helping those around us and around the world.

Don’t we want our church to be known as the hands that dirty themselves doing God’s work? Find your passion and get your hands “dirty”, for “goodness” sake!

Leave a Reply