I love picking up a winter’s worth of dog poop in my yard. It keeps the joy and excitement of warmth and sunshine in check. It’s so fun, especially when it is frozen on the bottom and gooey on top.
Forgive me. I lied. It’s gross. Not fun. Unpleasant. A chore that makes cleaning bathrooms feel like a blast.
I know there are probably wonderful dog owners who follow their beloved pet out in sideways precipitation to cleanup before it gets covered over, but that would not be us. I’m sure there are also pet owners who let their dogs do their business outside of their yard so their neighbors get stuck cleaning up, also not us. In the brilliant sunshine, we look out at the land mines exposed in the thaw and know the dirty deed must be done.
So, I try to think of ways to make it pleasant. I imagine it is a little like an Easter Egg hunt. Little surprises planted everywhere. Or I try to think of it as an investigation, a discovery of all the mysteries of scat (I discovered that’s where all my earplugs went, which was not pleasant). Finally, I think of it as a spiritual exercise in preparation for Easter.
The church has long set aside the forty days before Easter as a time of examination, reflection, and confession. This is the time to let our hearts thaw and see what is revealed. It might be some poop that needs cleaning up. It might be the treasure that has been missing all winter. What church leaders recognized long ago is that it is easy to live with a facade. Snow makes everything look so clean and pure; it’s hard to imagine the tonnage of poop molding below (I think that’s what the white fuzzy stuff was).
We need times in our lives when we cleanup our piles. It is a much easier task if it is done on a regular basis, but regardless you have to start somewhere. I appreciate the seasons of the church year where we set time aside to look around and figure out what is stinky. We don’t do this so folks feel lousy about themselves, but so we can step freely and celebrate the melting of the facade without fear.
This is probably what the church has not communicated well over the years. We reflect and confess not so we may be loved and forgiven by God; but because we are loved and forgiven by God, we reflect and confess. We are free to look around at the mess, and cleanup not to gain approval, but because our lives are cheated of so much joy when we remain in the mess.
I hate cleaning up the poop, but I love playing in my yard without a mess on my shoes. Sometimes to know the joy of playing, you have to clean up.
• Stage-Harvey is the pastor at Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church.