down and dirty

If you’ve seen the photos, you know. I was a dirty girl this weekend. For the second time. For the uninitiated, the Dirty Girl Run (and I use the term ‘run’ very loosely) is a 5K through a mud-covered obstacle course, all to benefit breast cancer and also laundry detergent manufacturers everywhere.

When my sister asked if we wanted to do it last year I thought, well why not? Actually, there are a lot of reasons why not, notably being I have never done a 5K in my life and I might seriously injure myself, but those did not occur to me. I just wanted to have fun with my sister. We are both cancer survivors, so we deserve it. Plus, I could fling mud at her like I did when we were kids and no one would punish me. (She would say no one did then, either, and she would probably be right.)

I thought I hated “Get Over It” most, the wall you have to climb over with footholds sized for a three-year-old’s feet. A very small three-year-old. Scary. But this year, there was worse. “Netchix,” an endless pit full of deep, slimy, mud covered with a heavy net. Claustrophobia kicked in big time with the weight of that net on my head as we crawled. Did I mention I will not be joining the marines any time soon?

But I am not someone who will go around an obstacle unless it is pretty much court mandated. So, through we went, my youngest daughter and I.

My favorite part of the course, however, was not the well-deserved finish line. Nor even the even more well-deserved shower. It was the hill climb. Two big ropes, up a steep, muddy hill, then down it. This picture is me going down, which was quite fun, really. (And oh, I beat that young thing next to me down the hill, by the way.)

But the best part of the day was watching that hill climb. Before me went two other women. One looked to be in her seventies. The other, well, carried a lot more weight on her than she probably wanted to. When each woman faltered and looked as if she might not make it up the hill, every women at the bottom started cheering. Clapping. Yelling encouragement. Making a lot of noise. Letting two strange women know that we believed they could do it. And they did.

Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.” 
(2 Corinthians 13.11)

It’s kind of embarrassing, honestly. A bunch of women who don’t know each other are doing a better job of this than we are in the church. They instinctively knew what those women needed, they put themselves in their place, and they cheered, loud and long.

But in the church? I have to wonder if the reason it doesn’t always feel like the God of love and peace is with us is that we aren’t doing the first things mentioned here. In a recent Barna poll, the majority of people in churches, when asked if they experienced God’s presence each week, said no. I’m grateful I do. But I wonder if there’s good reason most don’t.

Strive for restoration. Don’t walk away from hurt, retaliate, or gossip. Restore relationships. Tough work. But if we want a God of peace we’d better invite peace into our presence.

Encourage one another. Show up for each other. Have each other’s back in the tough stuff. Push them up the hill, if necessary. If instead we pull them down because we’re jealous, or frustrated, or angry, don’t look for a God of love.

Be of one mind. No, not agreeing on everything. That won’t happen. Plus, it’s boring. But agree that some things are more important than personal opinions, feelings, or preferences. Things like, ““Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. Andlove your neighbor as yourself.”

Something to learn from a bunch of dirty girls.

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