What You Risk When You Get Your Hands Dirty

June 5, 2011 | 36 comments

It was only a $32 ring. It wasn’t a wedding band, or my grandmother’s diamond, or a sparkling gem. It wasn’t anything worth anything to anyone. Except to me.   

It was just a ring. That’s what I tried to tell myself. Except that it was more.

To me, the ring was an engraved promise, and it was worship, and grace, and breath of God, and new life, and the deep, deep love of Christ for me, His beloved.

It was Spirit, and it was Yahweh, and it was surviving what didn’t seem survivable when the steel came crashing in around me.

It was miracle, in etched silver.

It was God, in unbroken circle.

It was Him and me, in this thing together — through thick and thin, for life and then some more after that.

To me, this ring stood for forever. It was Getting Down With Jesus — for today and for always.

Call me morbid, but I had already planned that one of my girls would get this ring when I died. One girl could have the wedding band, and one could have the Yahweh ring etched with the Hebrew letters: YHVH.

To me, both rings carried great worth, despite the wide price difference. 

It was just a ring, a $32 ring.

And then I went digging in the dirt, and it was gone.

I think that right now, it’s somewhere deep in the potted plants or in the  garden or maybe in the pile of dead things that I hauled in the wheelbarrow to my dump pile. It could be a million places. I don’t know.

Anyway, it’s gone. It makes me never want to thrust my hands into dirt again.

What might I risk losing if I get my hands dirty?

Ya know?


I didn’t know it was gone until later, when I stood at the sink to take off my rings. I found a naked finger.

My sister was here, and I called her to the bathroom. I just shook my head and showed her my empty finger. She knew why I hurt. She knew.

“Do you want me to look for it? We could dig through the dirt?” And I know she would have, if I’d asked her to. That’s what sisters do.

I shook my head again. No. It’s gone, the YHVH ring. It’s just … gone.

And you know what? God whispered it to me right there at the sink — the way He sometimes does — Spirit to spirit. “Your ring is gone, but I will never, ever, ever leave you nor forsake you. Never.”


Friend, have you ever felt that getting your hands dirty wasn’t worth the risk? Yeah, me too.

But you and I, we know the truth. It’s worth it. He’s worth it.

I think of the friends who couldn’t reach Jesus, so they got their hands dirty when they dug a hole through the roof so they bring their paralytic friend to the feet of Jesus.

What did Christ risk by getting his hands dirty? Rejection, and ultimately, His life.

Very God stooped to get His hands dirty when He made man.

And no matter what we lose when we get our hands dirty, in this upside-down Kingdom of Christ, we gain immeasurably more than all we could ask or imagine.

That’s worth the risk.


{Today, I’m linking up with Michelle and (for the first time) Jen…}

by | June 5, 2011 | 36 comments


  1. Tay

    So true Jen. So true. Sometimes it definitely is worth the risk of getting your hands dirty! Thanks for that reminder for me today!

    • dukeslee

      Thank you, Tay. Your visits and comments always bless me. God bless you as you “dig in” for Him!

  2. S. Etole

    in the dirt … from which we were formed … before the fall … what treasure lies in that dirt

    • dukeslee

      It’s so fitting, isn’t it, Susan? That we come from DIRT? In God’s upside-down Kingdom, the things that seem of little value are the most valued. We — the ones from dirt — were declared VERY good.

  3. HisFireFly

    Tears are flowing — He has planted more of you now, deep in the rich soil of His Spirit — yes, it is worth it.

    What will grow and come forth will be for His glory!

    • dukeslee

      Thank you for this. Yes, yes, something always grows from what we plant in the dirt. ((HUGS))

  4. Dawn @ Dawnings

    So you’re not going on an extravegant expedition to find lost things like He did?

    He was victorious over dirt, you just might be, too.

    • dukeslee

      You know, I thought of it, Dawn. But I didn’t. I really love your point here, and you’re so right … Jesus would go after any lost person. I hope that I would, too. But this was a ring — a “thing” — and I really felt God speaking into my spirit that while the ring was lost, He would never leave or forsake me. I didn’t lose God, just the engraved reminder of His love for me.

      Thank you for sharing your words. You make me think! 🙂

      • Dawn @ Dawnings

        Yes. Your ring was a visible reminder. Now you must see a naked finger and know he clothes your heart. He’s moving you from an external reminder to an internal trust alone.

        I’m glad you’re not letting your sentimentality get in the way of your sanctification.

        I’m sad for your loss anyway. 🙂

        • dukeslee

          Thank you Dawn … You have blessed me with that beautiful reminder. What a gift, your words here to me, and to all who stop by the comment box — that when we feel exposed or naked or raw, we are clothed in Christ. Thank ((YOU)).

  5. Jenn

    So much stuff in that dirt, the bed of growth. There doesn’t seem to be much life anywhere without the dirt….

    • dukeslee

      That God would kneel down in the dirt, to shape us, and breathe life into us. … That bowls me over. Thank you, Jenn, for sharing today.

  6. Linda

    It is true that we never lose something for Him that He doesn’t return ten-fold (more even!). I love this analogy Jennifer. I am far too often too timid to dig right in and get out of that nice tidy comfort zone.

    • dukeslee

      I am timid sometimes, too, Linda. But thanks be to God, He pulls us into His work, doesn’t He? Love you …

  7. Kay

    Jennifer, I thought about the risks last night as my husband and I opened our home to a group of college-age single adults for a summer Bible study. Last night was the first of our meetings and we started with a cookout. Among the college students was one young man who is living at a homeless shelter, trying to remain sober, trying to get a job (when he gets his license back). I had to write him a note that said he’d been at a Bible study for the evening. As I wrote the note, I must admit that I wondered to myself, “Is this guy trustworthy? Was it smart to have him in our home?” As he remarked at what a nice home we have, my worries doubled.

    Shame on me.

    After I wrote his note and he went back outside to the back porch where everyone was gathered to say his goodbyes, I thought about the risks of getting our hands dirty with this troubled young man. He wasn’t like rest of the kids. He could need more from us.

    But when the young man had left and I had rejoined the group in the back yard, I was told that he had just asked Jesus to come into his heart right before he left. Really? I was speechless. Sure enough, he had sat down beside my husband to say goodbye, but instead my husband had introduced him to Jesus. His life was changed. Mine is too.

    I’ll admit, it’s still a little disconcerting to think of having a homeless, former addict with many residual problems into my home each week. It might get a little messy. But it’s so worth it.

    Thanks for your post. I needed that.

    • dukeslee

      Oh Kay … I’m in awe of your story. Look at what happens when we’re willing to get down with Jesus … down far enough to get the hands dirty.

      Clean hearts; dirty hands.
      Soft hearts; hard soles on the feet.

      Grateful, grateful for the way you opened your home, and got your hands dirty, and watched a seed sprout right there on your back lawn.

      The Heavens rejoice.

      (Have you shared this story at your place?)

  8. Charity Singleton

    I know that ring meant a lot. I’m sorry you lost it. But oh, the point you make here – it’s so good. God often asks me to get my hands dirty, but I’m afraid of what I’ll lose. These words give me courage.

  9. Jennifer@Adam's Rib

    Goosebumps. I can’t help but think of Laura Story’s song that speaks of being found the most when she is lost.

  10. Brandee

    I’m sorry about your ring. It makes me think of Jim’s (my husband’s) mom. She had this Jesus ring that his dad wore before he died. She held onto it even after remarrying. Not too long ago, someone broke in and took a bunch of things, including the Jesus ring. She grieved losing that above everything else. It’s interesting how we become attached to material things even though we know our greatest treasures are in heaven. I have a $40 silver bracelet w/ pics in it, and I would bawl my eyes out if I lost it. Great post. Here via Graceful.

  11. Connie@raise your eyes

    Oh Jennifer, I am so sorry and I know what the ring meant to you. After my beloved husband passed on, I was working on something and my ring slipped off…just slipped off and I was a ragged heap on the floor…and that wasn’t even losing it (not the ring anyway:)

    GOD spoke to my heart with almost the same words…He is so very tender with us in His mercy…thank you for reminding me of His Words.

    • dukeslee

      He is a tender God, Connie. Your words whisper that reminder to me today. Much love to you.

  12. Shaunie Friday

    There are so many things to love about this post Jennifer, but one that really stands out to me is God’s very personal, individual response to you. He could have laid anything on your heart and He chose exactly what He wanted you to know in that moment. Your willingness to let His heart toward you be your peace is faith in action! My husband once lost his wedding ring and after months of searching we thought it was gone forever, even bought him another one. Then, on a business trip in Chicago, 2000 miles from home, he found it in the trunk of his taxi! It had tumbled out of the spot it had fallen into in his laptop bag–the lost was found in the most unlikely of ways! You never know, on some other day, when you get your hands dirty again, God may give your ring back to you. Either way, you have gained a greater treasure than you lost . . . very special!

    • dukeslee

      Shaunie! What a wonderful story about lost-and-found! So encouraging.

      Last night, Scott suggested that we borrow the neighbor’s metal detector. So we may go on the expedition that Dawn suggested earlier in the comment box, after all! We’ll see…. 🙂

      That really would be something, wouldn’t it, if I just “find” the ring unexpectedly later on? Grace is like that — coming at us even at the most unexpected times and places.

  13. Journey Girl

    I’m so sorry that you lost something so special to you. I love all of the connections you make. 1) that though the ring is gone He will never leave you. 2) that we make risks when we get our hands dirty.

    I know the Lord is going to do something special for you through the loss of this ring…can’t wait to hear what it is!

    • dukeslee

      Thank you, Journey Girl. Your words are a blessing to me. 🙂

  14. Jen

    It’s the self-protective measures that I take that prohibit me from getting dirty — the fear of losing myself, my heart, my time, my image. But it’s all wrapped up in fear, which I KNOW is not of God. It’s a risk, all the time, but no matter what I am laying down, I always have God to pick me back up.

  15. Amy Sullivan

    Too often I look at my hands and wonder where the dirt is. It’s times like this that I know I need to push myself. When my hands are clean and soft and there is nothing messy about my life.

  16. Glenda Childers

    Usually I am quick to get my hand dirty, but right now I am a little reluctant. Thanks for reminding me that the risk is worth it.

    I hope your sweet ring finds you.


  17. cas

    I’m so sorry Jennifer. I lost some special jewelry in California and still lament it. Ugh. I wonder what this means for your gardening though? I imagine you’ll be digging around in those places all summer until you find it. I would.

  18. deb

    you’ll let us know if you find it won’t you.. it’s going to bug me 🙂

    love the story , Jennifer. you are so right.

  19. Sherry

    Beautiful post! What a way to see His faithfulness even in the face of pain and sorrow. I’m sorry you lost your ring, but am rejoicing in His every-constant being in our lives. I do hope your ring pops up!

  20. Michelle DeRusha

    Yeah, I often feel that getting my hands dirty isn’t worth the risk, or the trouble, or the time. Sometimes I make the wrong decision and keep the hands clean. But when I get them dirty, I find it’s the more rewarding, more fulfilling, more difficult (yes) but also more God-filled experience, hands-down.

    I know I’ve said this like a million trillion times, but how do you nail one post after another like this? You are SO good.

  21. Pamela

    And what Satan meant for evil, the Lord used it for good. Not only to bless you with His promise, but for all of us who internalized the lesson it blessed again.


  22. Cheryl Smith

    Who says you’re not a gifted gardener? Here you are, again, planting words that grow food for the hungry soul.

  23. Laura

    So good! And yes, sometimes I get discouraged and want to give up so I dont have to get my hands dirty. Prov. 14:4 is a great reminder for me, “Where there are no oxen, the manger is empty, but from the strength of an ox comes an abundant harvest.”, I think of dealing with dirt/peoples issues is like cow poo. It stinks, but if there was no people to have to deal with their would be no fruit.

    Wondering… would you be willing to link for Brag on God Friday’s to share your insights about the Lord?

  24. Nancy

    I am so glad I found your blog and I am your newest member….

    I just had a similar experience…..I had bought a ring in Jerusalem that said Be Still and Know That I am God in Hebrew and at a recent retreat that I help faciliate, the Lord told me to give it to one of the girls attending….It broke my heart but I knew God would not ask me to do that if it hadn’t been important. Amazingly enough, I really did have peace about it…..but I know how you feel….

    Hugs and blessings


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