Dirty Fingernails

Checking on my father-in-law, getting ready for church, he said, “Oh, I’m ready. Got my fingernails clean and everything.” His generation would bathe on Saturday and get to town for Sunday services. Now, my mother would not agree, but dirty fingernails are a good thing. It means you got something done, or at least were outside playing in the dirt.

Take for instance the late country singer K.T Oslin, who always wore gloves on stage. It wasn’t a mere fashion statement as much as she loved to work in her garden and her nails showed it. There is value in sinking your fingers in the dirt and making things grow.

I always thought wielding a shovel or post hole digger was just a means to an end, to finish a chore and “build character” as my father would say. And as usual, he was right, but this bit of wisdom did not kick in until I left college.

Despite my aspiration of making a company run, I exchanged a freshly minted diploma for my first job, as a glorified concrete shoveler. My boss had been in the dirt business before dirt was invented and he quickly proved I knew nothing. Years of pushing a shovel in the Texas heat made me reassess my career path. Eventually, I found myself in an air-conditioned office, reading plans and moving “virtual” dirt, but it took a lot of dirty fingernails to get me to this place, so I am grateful. I escaped the heat but missed the hands-on work and the satisfaction of a dirty job done well.

When I step away from my computer, there are projects that require sweat, busted knuckles and dirty fingernails. I have found in these times; old fashioned elbow grease allows room for my brain to ponder and listen for God’s voice in the midst of the dirt. Something about being knee deep into nature “grounds” me, pun certainly intended.

God is in all things, but I seem to find Him more in backyard dirt. Funny thing since I move dirt for a living.

So, before you clean your fingernails for church, think back on the dirt and how it got there. And be grateful.


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Reach out to me at John@LiftedKeys.com and tell me your story. I would love to know where and in what way God has guided His words through my pen.

Check out the audio version of this story at the Podcast

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