Lately, it seems that my Father loves digging up shit. The other day I came to a place where I was asking for a reprieve. I was weary from all the digging into my story. Digging into the shit that has lay dormant under layers of memory that God knows better than I.
When a gardener is looking to grow something he actually digs up the dirt, breaking apart the crusted layers to get at the life that lays just below the surface. It is here that the growth happens. This is where the stuff of earth makes the stuff of life. And, oddly enough, the gardener will intentionally mix in shit with the soil to bring about a healthier, more organic result.
No surprise, then, that Mary, when looking for Jesus on the day he was resurrected, mistook him for a Gardener. God has been in the gardening business for as long as we’ve been around and longer. So why should it bother me that He seems to always love digging up shit? Because it hurts. Because it is emotionally exhausting. Because, like Turner, I want to keep it buried “where it belongs.”
Towards the end of Around the Bend, Turner has to face his shit in a way he never saw coming. It shakes him so deeply that he thinks that Henry’s whole intention of leading him there was for spite. He says, “I am not doing this. I was a junkie then…I’m not even that person anymore. Ancient stuff.” My words the other day as God started digging in a particular place.
Turner’s son, who has walked with a limp his whole life from what he thought was a car accident with his mom, is there with him, getting ready to find out what really happened. His son says, “Henry sent us here so I could forgive you. That’s all my post-it said was ‘forgive him.’ What am I forgiving you for, Turner?”
Forgiveness. Not spite. Henry knew his son, and knew his grandson. He knew his son, Turner, wouldn’t be alive until he dug out the shit.
When Turner hears that it’s about forgiveness he responds, “what happened here…there’s no forgiveness.” More than not have I said those very words upon entering a part of my story I wish was still buried.
Finally, Turner tells his son, “You were not in the car. You were never in a car accident.”
His son is putting it together, and with tears says, “What did you do? Did…did you drop me? Did you get fucked up and dropped me!!?”
Turner has snapped, he is in IT as he yells, “Fucked up!?!?! I was gone!!!” He knows, I know, all to what well what it was that brought him to such a place in the first place. And his son keeps pressing him to admit that he dropped him but Tuner knows it’s worse than that and has to confess it. “No! No! Nobody dropped you! Get it!!…I threw my kid. I threw my boy. I threw my boy” It is out there in all its rawness. For me it is these places in my soul where I feel most desolate and sometimes wonder how I ever get back.
He threw his boy down the stairs and his boy has grown up a man with a limp the whole way.
And what is on the table for the offering and the taking is Forgiveness.
Digging up shit hurts. No wonder I do all I can to avoid my Father when he does this. No wonder I assume it is out of spite that he goes in deep to the nerves. Yes, I have to admit what I see there, what I did, not what others think or perceive happened. And I don’t stay there.
I mourn the loss. Mourn the loss of heart. But then I am reminded that though life is often found amongst the dead things, it never dwells there. “Shake off the dirt!” God says to Jerusalem coming out of exile. Shake off the dirt. And live.
My Father always loves digging up shit, because he knows there is life to be learned there. It takes a brave man, a courageous woman to go on a dig with this kind of God. Where is the spade set to strike? How deep am I going to let this go? And when the truth comes out will I shake off the dirt, walking out more alive than I thought possible? What does the post-it note read? “Forgive him.”