The Dirt Volcano & the Three Year Old Sage

Jim and I were in the back corner of the yard playing this afternoon. One tree was his house. The tree next to it was his Uncle Matt’s house, but I was the new owner since Matt returned home to Nashville. Jim and I went fishing with sticks, went to a school located at another tree, and “ate” cereal that were actually leaves from the magnolia tree. Give a three and a half year old a backyard and the possibilities are endless.

I was there with Jim, but I wasn’t quite there. I interacted with my son but I was internally stewing. That morning I led a session of worship education with the kindergartners through third graders at our church. The lesson was about Lent. Never mind that the 40 day period which we are about to enter is a tough one to teach adults, I had talked myself into the fact that this lesson needed to be awesome.

Awesome it was not. It wasn’t bad. It just was. When you teach children, you need to be ready to make adjustments so I had to call a few audibles. Things did not go entirely to plan. Yet all things considered, the session probably went pretty well. Still, I could not stop overanalyzing the thing. This is what I do. It’s not healthy. I just get lost in my own head and…

"Daddy, let’s make a fountain."

Jim started to dig in the dirt. So I sat down on the ground beside him and watched him for a second as he scooped it into a mound. Thinking he was confused, I asked, “Are we making a mountain, buddy?”

"Nope, a fountain. A volcano."

I nodded; mainly to myself. Fountains and volcanoes actually are the same type of thing. I scooped up some soil and let it sift through my fingers onto our fountain. We sat there under the magnolia digging through the earth, finding snail shells, and chatting.

Scoop up dirt. Pour the dirt on the pile. Repeat. For about a hour. You would think that it would drive a person crazy. But in fact it was just the opposite. It was calming. My mind was not longer trying to go back and change things.

Jim stopped and admired the volcano.

"We’ve made a really big volcano. Didn’t we, buddy?"

"Uh-huh," he said with a smile.

Then he started kicking the whole thing over.

"What’re you doing?"

"We’re done. After we play, we do it again."

I admit that I was ticked off for a brief moment. But then it occurred to me: it was literally a pile of dirt. We had done what we set out to do and it was time to move on. There was chase to be played. There were stories to tell. There were rolling clouds to watch. There was concrete in need of chalking. If we had stuck with the hill and guarded it from the almost spring-like breeze, none of that awesome stuff would have happened.

My lesson on Lent was like that.

Hmm…that could be taken the wrong way: “Chris said teaching the children at his church was a pile of dirt.”

I had done the lesson. I had given it my best. I learned a few things. It was time to move on. I didn’t need to guard it like I initially wanted to guard that dirt volcano. That would benefit no one and it would not change a single thing.

When Ash Wednesday starts Lent this week, one of the reminders that I’ll hear—and perhaps you might too—is that we are dust. I am finite and my time here is limited. It is a waste of life to overanalyze and try to fix things that have already flown away with the wind. All I can do is try to love God, love those I encounter, and give my best at whatever is at hand whether that’s teaching a lesson at church, writing a blog, or spending time with my son.

That’s hard for us adults to remember sometime. We’re often so transfixed on what is ahead or what is behind that we forget about what is in front of us. Thankfully, I’ve got a wise three year old that keeps me in check even if he doesn’t realize it.


Reflectors and the Resurrector