When the snow melts on a jobsite, it leaves behind mud.
All of that water has to go somewhere, and so it just soaks into the dirt, producing mud.
In the sort of North Texas clay that exists where I work, it produces some of the worst sort of slimy, clingy, heavy, semi-liquid mud known to man.
Forget getting around in your 2-wheel-drive pickup truck; it can strand 4-wheel-drive vehicles, and even cause difficulty for things that run on tracks.
It’s one of the weather situations in which I, alone and on foot, can sometimes make better progress than a guy in a truck.
Not that it’s easy even for me. The mud sticks to my shoes, then more mud sticks to that, then more mud sticks to that. I end up with legs resembling golf clubs; great balls of congealed glop surrounding my workboots, so that each foot weighs about 5lbs and swells to the size of a small beach ball.
You think I’m exaggerating? Come and do my job for a day.
In addition, it’s slippery stuff, so that your feet lose a minimum of 3/4 of their regular traction, and it’s like walking on plate glass. Or more accurately, greased plate glass. The only way to walk in the stuff is doing a combination impression of an old man and a duck.
In addition, it’s cold. The pounds of unheated glop around your feet suck all the warmth from your toes, and sit there even after that radiating active cold into your boots.
It always puts me in mind of Psalm 40:
“I waited patiently for the Lord,
He inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me out of the miry pit;
Out of the miry clay”.
In the Psalm, the miry clay is symbolic of the troubles that surround us, and perhaps too of our own sins. Like Texas gumbo mud, they cling to us, weighing us down and hindering our free movement. They age us in the worst way, turning us from lightness and joy to sullen bitterness. Even out of the situation, the mud still clings, smearing itself on anything around that used to be clean.
But the Psalm doesn’t stop with God drawing us out of the mire. He sets our feet on a rock and gives us a firm place to stand.
Part of this necessarily has to mean cleaning the mud from our feet.
It doesn’t matter how good your workboots are if they are covered in slime. The mud will still act against friction, and even if you are set down on a rock, you can still slip and fall if your feet are muddy.
Anyone who has ever stepped from ankle-deep Texas clay mud onto a clean concrete building slab can testify to this.
Jesus doesn’t just take us out of the surrounding mud of sin. He cleans us as well; He enables us to stand.
And if we can stand, we can move freely. We can walk, run, leap, dance.
There’s a freedom that comes with being loosed from the grip of the mire that’s difficult to comprehend until you’ve experienced it. Similarly, there’s a freedom in His grace, a lightness and liberty in walking free of sin.
In the run-up to Easter, it seems an appropriate thing to dwell on.