(yes, another story about manure–sorry! Given I spend an hour or more a day dealing with it, it tends to absorb my creative energy!)
A mid-March cold snap swept down from northern Canada last week, freezing daffodils in mid-bloom, withering berry plant and orchard branch buds, and causing general mayhem in the Pacific northwest. After a few weeks of rain and temperate weather up to the high 50’s, 17 degrees felt cruel indeed.
Our barn is fairly draft proof, but in northeasters like this, the water buckets ice up and the manure sits in cold hard piles, like so many round rocks. It is a great temptation to put off the stall cleaning when the weather is this bitter cold and push the poop to the walls for later pick up when it is warmer. After all, it doesn’t smell when it is frozen rock hard, and certainly loses its “squish” factor, so the horses seem to not mind too much. So when I went out this weekend to start the digging out process, there were several days of accumulation to contend with.
As I wheeled the loads out to the manure pile, and dug into the pile to tidy it up, the steam poured out into the frigid air–there was nothing left frozen there. It was hot and getting hotter–its destruction assured through the composting of so much organic matter. No wonder the cats find a nice sunny spot to stretch out next to this smoldering mountain of poop. It is as comfy as a tropical vacation spot.
How often have I similarly piled my metaphorical “poop” in piles to deal with another time? Frozen it seems innocuous, inoffensive, not worthy of my attention, not enough to bother with. It is so tempting to pass on cleaning up my messes, by shoving mistakes and errors to one side or “under the carpet” and trying to ignore the growing mounds in my own nest. Admitting one’s sins and proceeding to clean up after one’s self is not fashionable in this day and age of not wanting to be judged or to pass judgment. All types of behavior, even some of the most self-destructive, are tolerated as freedom of expression, and referring to anything as sin is considered impossibly old fashioned. Our pastor is doing a study series on Christian “respectable sins”, like ungodliness, discontent, pride, etc. I have a ton of them that accumulate daily that I want to simply pile up and ignore.
Like frozen poop shoved aside and not dealt with, sin eventually warms up. It starts to stink, and generally becomes obnoxious and overwhelming. Once it gets big enough, it becomes its own steaming inferno, burning and destroying everything else within. The only safe place for it is to move it far away from where we dwell everyday.
I remember a young mother of three children who died three years ago as the heat of her drug addiction overcame efforts to clean up her life, though she was a Christian believer. Many family, friends, church family and health care professionals handed her the tools to help scoop up the mess her addiction had left behind, but she chose to shove it into frozen piles around her, unwilling to admit how it was mounding up higher and higher, to the point of blocking any eventual escape. It consumed her before she could dig free with her rescuers’ help. It crushed her and her family is still trying to recover.
Such tragedy convinces me we must face our own messes without turning away in our shame. We must dig ourselves out everyday from our mistakes, ask forgiveness for the harm we cause, and gratefully accept the tools handed to us that make possible the impossible job of getting clean. We cannot do it by ourselves. Our wheelbarrow is too small, our shovels too inadequate, our muscles too weak.
Blessed are the barn cleaners, for working together, they will find hope beyond the steaming pile.