The Truest Thing About You
Let's begin at the beginning: From dust you came. . .
A couple years ago I met a man, Tyler, whose knuckles on one hand were tattooed with four letters, D-I-R-T. He approached me in the grocery store parking lot, asking for money. I didn't have cash on hand, and even if I had, I don't think I would've given him any; his heroin addiction was obvious. We had an awkward exchange, the kind that left me feeling discombobulated and certain there was a better, more real and humane way of saying "no," even while being available to connection. I got in the car, my stomach all jumbled and my heart heavy, the image of his knuckles imprinted on my mind.
What makes someone tattoo the word dirt on their knuckles? Did he think he was a piece of dirt? Had someone told him he was dirt? And why did I feel so drawn to this man with whom I had such a brief exchange? What was I supposed to do with this?
In the moment, and for some time following, I felt a sense of failure for not knowing how to connect with him, at least not in a way that felt satisfying to either of us. And maybe, with him active in his addiction to heroin and me active in my own addiction to a compulsive need to feel significant we couldn't have really connected anyway. Addicts aren't known for their ability to be present.
A Holy Discomfort has remained with me, though, working on me, asking me time and again to be present to this encounter and allow it to guide me and keep me open to the surprising ways of God. In the car, just after meeting Tyler, I knew what I wish I'd been able to say and he'd been able to hear. I wished I had told him that he was dirt. And I was too. And that this was a most hopeful truth. In claiming our common origin we dismantle the powerful illusion which blinds us and closes our hearts: the illusion that we are separate.
And when we remember that we've come from dust, we dismantle another illusion that has held many of us captive: the illusion that the truest thing about us is our brokenness. I wish I could have conveyed to Tyler as I am conveying to you now that he and you and I were formed, with love and intention, from the soil of a garden. A rich soil that was watered by a deeper indwelling Source. A mysterious soil that already held within it the seed of a flourishing new life. A soil enlivened by the breath of Divine Inspiration. I wish I'd told him that the earth of his body was not just good, but from the very beginning had been pronounced very good.
Tyler wasn't and isn't the only one who needs to hear this message. We all seem to need to hear it over and over again: Love intended you, formed you and named you very good. That is the first and truest statement about you. And there is nothing you can do, and there is nothing that can happen to you which can alter the primary truth of your inherent goodness. Read that again. For many of us, an overemphasis on the doctrine of Original Sin makes this a necessary corrective.
The thing is, for any of us, just hearing the truth doesn't often result in the transformation we seek. We need to experience it. With you in mind, and with the goal of facilitating such an experience of the goodness of the earth of your body, I created this 16-minute guided meditation. I like to practice this one lying down, really experiencing my body as earth, but you may choose to sit.
Not inclined toward the meditation? Here's another way to claim your connection: make a donation right now (of any size) to this West Michigan non-profit, Tyler has founded, Dirt City Sanctuary. Yes, you read that correctly. In the time since I encountered Tyler, another chapter has been unfolding in his life. Last summer a friend, with whom I'd shared my experience, sent me this NPR story. Was this the man I'd met? Look at what Spirit was up to! WOODTV had featured Tyler and his struggle with addiction and homelessness in a series of stories. As a result, an old friend of Tyler's from high school reached out to walk alongside him on a road to recovery and Dirt City Sanctuary was born. Talk about the surprising ways of God!
As I prepared to write this Ash Wednesday mediation, I had no intention of writing about my encounter with Tyler, but Spirit intended otherwise. And I'm curious about that. And I invite you to summon your own curiosity. I'll be sending this email, along with a donation, to Dirt City Sanctuary, as a thank you to Tyler, for drawing me back to the goodness of being dirt. And as a way of celebrating the truth of our connection, two people who come from the same earthy and divine Source. Perhaps you'll want to do the same today. Maybe we can all get caught up in this particular surprising way of God! However Spirit leads you, intend today, one way or another, to release this illusion of separation and embrace the reality of your belonging. All of you. As you are.