Just west of Lafayette, Louisiana, the farmland is a patchwork of flooded fields outlined by low grassy levees. Some bristle with stalks of rice in long rows. Others are dotted with the tops of submerged crawfish traps. And many are a blend of both. The waters are too shallow for a boat’s propeller, and the mud’s too deep and soggy for a tractor’s weight so the farmers have a vehicle that is neither boat nor tractor but a clever hybrid of both.
The crawfish boat is a shallow-draft, flat-bottom craft pushed by a heavy, cleated, metal wheel mounted on the stern. And that wheel is the key. It sinks under the water and into the muck where it can get some traction and push forward.
We need that kind of traction when the muck of life gets too thick. And at times, life can be thick with muck. Our personal circumstances get bogged down by stresses and strains. Our family situations get murky and muddy. Work, social lives, school: they can become swampy places, seemingly impossible to navigate. And then there are quagmires on a national scale: gun violence, addiction, racial injustice, immigration, deep ideological divisions fueled by out-of-control social-media noise.
We hear countless opinions about how to solve the grand issues of the day and the personal issues that we’re stuck in, but it seems to me that no matter what solutions we run with, we need to make sure we have one heavy, cleated, metal wheel that sinks under the water and into the muck where it can get some traction and truly push us forward. The wheel is the key.
For me, the wheel is Christ, particularly, his way of real compassion for real people.
Rather than stick to strict religious rules, Christ has compassion for a woman accused of adultery. Rather than follow the social expectations of his day, Christ befriends outcasts and shares meals with them. Rather than focus on his own agenda, Christ stops to heal a beggar in the street. Rather than guard his reputation, Christ touches the untouchable. And the list goes on.
Real compassion for real people: that’s the wheel that gains traction through the muck. That doesn’t mean the way is easy. That doesn’t mean people will agree on how best to show compassion. That doesn’t mean every issue miraculously disappears. It does mean, though, that with Christ’s compassion as the wheel, our shared focus can be on how our thoughts, words, and actions impact the real lives of real people, especially those who are most vulnerable. And that, it seems to me, is a much better place to start.
May the compassion of Christ be your wheel in the muck.