Spit and Dirt

Spit. It’s something we usually don’t think too much about. It just hangs around in our mouths to help us digest food and get frosting off our fingers.

But when spit is not where it belongs, it is just plain yucky. Like when the kids blow spit bubbles at the dinner table. Or you wake up from a comatose nap to the realization that you have quite unattractively drooled a slimy pond on your pillow. Or you inadvertently step in a puddle of the disgusting stuff in a parking lot. Ew.

But on at least three recorded occasions, Jesus used–of all things–spit to heal. Mark describes the healing of a deaf man with a speech impediment:

They brought to Him one who was deaf and spoke with difficulty, and they implored Him to lay His hand on him. Jesus took him aside from the crowd, by himself, and put His fingers into his ears, and after spitting, He touched his tongue with the saliva; and looking up to heaven with a deep sigh, He said to him, “Ephphatha!” that is, “Be opened!” And his ears were opened, and the impediment of his tongue was removed, and he began speaking plainly. (Mark 7:32-35)

And we learn of how Jesus spat on the eyes of a blind man:

And they came to Bethsaida. And they brought a blind man to Jesus and implored Him to touch him. Taking the blind man by the hand, He brought him out of the village; and after spitting on his eyes and laying His hands on him, He asked him, “Do you see anything?” And he looked up and said, “I see men, for I see them like trees, walking around.” Then again He laid His hands on his eyes; and he looked intently and was restored, and began to see everything clearly. (Mark 8:22-25)

I have questions about these passages. Why didn’t Jesus just cut to the chase and speak a healing word like He did in other instances? Like we know He could have? Why did He spit? Now, I know Jesus’ spit is probably better than that of any other human–if you can actually rank the quality of spit. Which I doubt. And I also know that Jesus wasn’t just human.

But why spit?

There is also the story about Jesus spitting in the dirt, making mud, and applying it to a man’s eyes:

As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth…He [Jesus] spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes, and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent). So he went away and washed, and came back seeing. (John 9:1, 6-7)

Now He’s not just spitting, but also mixing up a divine mud pie? Why?

A few years back, I felt the Lord whisper a truth to me about these verses. He said, in effect, “Sometimes things have to get worse before they get better.” This applies to many situations we go through in this life.

People go through counseling, digging out all sorts of buried hurts – and it hurts to dig them all out. It seems to get worse before it gets better. People undergo chemotherapy, the chemicals weakening their immune systems and sapping their strength. They feel a whole lot worse before they feel better.

Frankly, so much of what we go through on this messed up planet is spit and dirt. It’s the bad before the good. The worse before the better. The pain before the prize.

Truth be told, I would opt to skip the bad, the worse, the pain, and fast forward to the good, the better, the prize. I know, know, know, that Jesus can speak things into reality–a word of healing, of transformation, of deliverance. Dirt and spit? No thanks.

I think of my longtime friend whose son’s disease has caused him to face a second kidney transplant. I think of my father and many others who died of cancer. I think of my four miscarriages.

Jesus could have intervened and healed the cancer and prevented the miscarriages. He could step in and completely heal my friend’s son. He could. He might. And I fervently pray that He does.

But the fact remains that He doesn’t always – not in the way we desire.

So, what if the bad, the worse, and the pain are part of our healing? Not necessarily our physical healing, but the healing of our hearts and souls? What if we could rise above the here and now and look to the healing that is bound to come because of the spit and dirt?

And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:4)

What if, like the blind man with mud caked on his eyes, we could walk along obediently, without even the promise of healing? Just walk to and through whatever Jesus determines. And come back seeing. Perfect. Complete.

I want this to be true of me. But, God help me, I don’t want to discover whether it is.

Janice Powell 2013

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972, 1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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