The Way Through Mud

In this season of Lent Lint, today is Maundy Muddy Thursday, which is the celebration of the last supper and Jesus washing his disciples’ feet. Allow me to move away from the details of the religious holiday to riff on a more general theme that this day offers to our human experience more broadly: sometimes we have no clue what is actually going on. Things are just…muddy.

In the scripture that describes what happened on Muddy Thursday, it’s clear the disciples are way confused about what is going on. I think a summary of their responses to what was taking place could be, “wait, what?” “who, me?” “what is even going on here?” and “this doesn’t make any sense.” Muddy Thursday.

Sometimes we find ourselves in situations that aren’t at all what we expected or hoped for. You know the ones: situations that are so complicated and confusing that you can’t identify your next right thing. We humans can get completely disoriented when can’t see a clear way forward: we like to know how the situation will resolve and when. Unless you’re a pig (or a toddler!), mud is not the place most of us hope to end up.

I’ve noticed that when I’m in muddy situations, I like to blame myself or find someone else to blame because I am so uncomfortable. The disciples did this too. Surely not I, Lord? Muddy Thursday is the day we turn against ourselves and each other as a result of the discomfort we feel because we can’t see through the mud.

If you’re someone who blames yourself when you encounter a muddy situation, welcome to the club. I recently came across these words in Kate Bowler’s book Good Enough: “Please, please, please, hear me say to you: You are not ruined or broken or a failure. You are simply in pain.” (p. 70). On Muddy Thursday, we are not ruined or broken or failures. We are simply in the mud.

Today I learned that Maundy Thursday (Muddy Thursday’s namesake) was named based on the Latin phrase “Mandatum novum do vobis” (“a new commandment I give to you;” John 13:34). The day was marked by a commandment to love one another rather than blame, deny, hide, or sell out in times of uncertainty. Muddy Thursday suggests love is the way through. Love, coming out of a hose, washing off our muddy feet, hands, boots, souls. Isn’t that…beautiful?