Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Dung Days

If your days are a sort of endless dance past happy meadows and blissful mountaintops, then you may not appreciate this LifeNote. Don’t bother reading any further unless you’re looking for reasons to pray. But if you’re acquainted with turmoil, if a frequent dance partner through your days is frustration, then you’ll get it.

I’m writing about dung. That’s right—dung—and days that are full of it. The apostle Paul knew all about those kinds of days, and I do too.

What do I mean? Well, let me give you some examples. When you look back on all the plans you had for life and you think sadly, “What the heck happened?” that’s a dung day. Or, if you have a day or two when your educational path seems wasted or useless, especially if you went past high school and into college, then that’s a dung day. Or maybe you consider the long ago favor of your childhood or the standing you once enjoyed in your community, and, in light of present difficulties, you wonder, “Where did I go wrong?” then that’s a dung day. Or perhaps your memory loads up a bygone time when you really had it goin’ on, you were a mover and a shaker, a power-broker, but now you feel like you’ve been shoved off the radar screen of life. As you think about your comparatively meaningless existence, well, that’s a dung day.

Or, as a friend likes to say in her best Scottish brogue, a day when “It’s all crrrrrrap.”

Are you with me? Now let’s put it into a biblical perspective.

If you’ve received Jesus, if you’re a Christian, then God thinks He has made you a new person—crucified you to this world, made you an alien-new-creation in it, and given you a whole new set of likes and dislikes. And He didn’t call you on the phone and ask for your permission, or write you an email explaining it all and ask you to respond favorably before He went and did what He did. He simply did it; one of those omnipotent power plays He’s famous for.

Mostly we’re thankful He did what He did, saving us and all. But on days when things don’t add up, when our career path looks like a Dow Jones Industrials graph summarizing the last year, or when we don’t like our present situation in the least, then that’s the dung that proves we’re made for something else—knowing Jesus. I’m not kidding.

Here. Have a look at what Paul wrote:

7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish (literally “dung”), that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:7-11, italics mine.)

Chances are good that you’re already having days of deep longing or turmoil. The god-given purpose—the target—of those longings is not so that things finally go the way “they should” and your life works the way you thought it would. No. God has set you up and is using the dung of your days to give you something way better. You’re longing for Him now. Feel it?

What you want is Him. Have you figured it out and told Him? Wanting Him is the highest and best wanting because there is nothing higher or better—and wanting and knowing Him will make you free from the far lower wantings and knowings that strangle the sons of God. Like wanting better stuff and knowing who’ll win the NBA finals.

Maybe right now you’re entirely lost in the dung—you can’t see anything else and you’re sick of it. I know what that’s like. But it’s a sort of blindness and sickness that serves the purpose of making your inner eyes, what Paul called the eyes of your heart, open up and become the useful and reliable things they’re intended to be.

And then you’ll be getting well. The sickness of this world—the lusts and longings that make feeble men and women—will not find you quite so easy to visit. And the dung days will have been turned to gold.

You’re better off than you think.

P.S. What are some of the ways by which you better-know Jesus? Praying and talking with Him? Reading the Bible or a good Christian oriented book? Listening to music? Taking a walk? Would you share some of those? I’ll add them to next week’s LifeNote. And how does doing things in order to know Jesus rank on your list of priorities? Time to make it match what God has made it to be for you? Is that what the dung days are telling you? Well, then. . .


  1. Anonymous9:53 AM

    Prayer. Honest, candid, alone with God Prayer. I try to make it the first thing I do everyday. (which is tough at 1am!) I think it reminds me of the order of things. Plus, it gets my mind right for the day. Then usually a bunch of off key singing in the car to christian music. Everyone wonders lately why I smile more now....

  2. Anonymous12:22 PM

    Great note! We all have dung days once in a while! The first thing I do every morning is brush my teeth...as I brush away... Lamentations 3:22-23 often floats around in my mind, "Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness" (NIV). After about 45 minutes or so I, sit with my morning coffee and blogs, where I read them with Jesus. His presence is assumed...for He never leaves me. He shares in my day :) Being aware of Jesus...consciously, being aware that He has taken up residence within me~ Peace abound! There are always going to be times when I lose sight of the reality, and then peace may "appear" absent.


  3. Anonymous12:50 PM

    Great note, Ralph! Having had plenty of dung days and still experiencing them, I'm finally realising that nothing that is 'fixed' in my life will fill that horrible hole where my heart should be - only Jesus will do it. Anything that will turn my focus from poor little me to strong, mighty, endlessly patient Jesus will do it - anything. Just got to want Him. One of my favourite scriptures is Jeremiah 29:13: "Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I'll make sure you're not disappointed." (Message version). aiyayayayay - He's sooooo good!

  4. Anonymous5:43 PM

    Best LifeNote to date. Thank you. I've been eyeball deep in the dung.

  5. Anonymous8:06 PM

    Dude, I'm having a dung YEAR.