“Then the Jews…incited a mob against Paul and Barnabas and ran them out of town. So they shook the dust from their feet as a sign of rejection and went to the town of Iconium.” (Acts 13:50-51)
Like most of you reading this blog, I’m an avid reader of anything well written. I’m a big fan of history and biography, but I still like a good mystery, believe the world’s best science fiction (Bradbury, Sturgeon, Dick, Asimov, Lem) contain more truth the most of the evening news broadcasts, and enjoy the occasional novel involving conflicted characters who stumble into truth like a drunken sailor looking for fresh air. In fact, I just finished a novel I enjoyed but wouldn’t recommend in which a character did just that, but unfortunately didn’t understand the truth he rejected.
In the novel (The Solace of Leaving Early by Haven Kimmel, if you must know!) a pastor called Amos is writing a sermon but isn’t having much luck. He’s been pondering Christ’s teaching about shaking the dust off one’s sandals and leaving a place if people treat you badly. Then Kimmel, through Pastor Amos, wrote the best two sentences of the book: “And don’t take the dirt with you. You won’t need it where you’re going.” The pastor, not seeing the truth he wrote, crossed it out.
But I couldn’t let it go.
Traditionally, the idea of shaking the dust off one’s feet is similar to Pilate washing his hands before the crowd, telling them, “I’m innocent. The responsibility is yours” (Matt. 27:24). Shaking the dust off the feet is a gesture saying we’ve done all we can and we’re not responsible for the consequences.
However, Pastor Amos stumbled upon a truth I’d like to explore, because everyone experiences rejection. We are fired from a job; we don’t make the football team; our political opinions are considered outrageous; our best friend stops talking to us; our spouse leaves us. Rejection is universal. Kimmel, however, understands the gift of shielding the people we will soon meet from the people we’ve moved on from by saying, “And don’t take the dirt with you. You won’t need it where you’re going.”
And she’s right. Why do we allow the dust of yesterday’s rejection to surround us like Pig-Pen’s cloud? I continue to meet people who are surrounded by the pain of the past, and thereby live more really in past than they do in the present. As a result, the dust of the past obscures their vision of what is truly in front of them. Even when people are genuinely nice to them, they can’t always see it because their fear of rejection keeps other people outside the boundaries of their cloud.
The people I meet shouldn’t have to dig through the hurt of yesterday’s dirt and rejection to see the truth of who I am just because someone else couldn’t. I shouldn’t make someone else’s rejection of me become your problem. Besides, the dirt doesn’t define me; God does.
Don’t take the dirt with you. You won’t need it where you’re going.