If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town.
You are a gift. Your presence, your skills, your ideas are a gift. But when you give, you can’t control how a gift is received: it can be treasured or tossed, used or abused by the recipient. Jesus explains to his travel companions that when someone rejects your gift, you don’t have to sit there giving them more gifts and watching the other person throw them away. It’s not our job to force people to receive us! Jesus says to his disciples, don’t exhaust yourself persuading people who are comfortable rejecting you. You can shake the dust and move on. You can fail and move on. The Christian call is not one of arm-twisting everyone into a vision of order. The Christian call is to invite everyone to the party and see who shows up. Jesus tells us to celebrate the party that happens—not the party that you wish would have happened. Sometimes, we get so attached to the idea of Christian service that we believe we’re doing God a favor by staying in a place where we’re diminished, teased, and dismissed. God is not impressed by pain tolerance. Just before this, Jesus says, “If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.” If a house is not worthy of your presence, you are not obligated to stay there forever on the chance that it will become worthy. Many hard things are worthwhile. But some hard things are worth releasing. Sometimes, what we’re called to do is shake the dust and move on. Move with generosity, hospitality, and kindness. But move on.
Takeaway: Shake some of the dust you’ve accumulated, from a village you’re walking out of today or a village you left years ago. Dust from yesterday’s frustration or dust from a childhood experience. The what-could-have-beens. The places that broke you when you loved them. Shake off the past that you’ve let cling to and limit your future. As Jesus tells his disciples, there is a world full of villages to visit. It’s okay to release one of those villages from needing you, and to release yourself from needing to control every village you enter.
Still not sure what it looks like to shake the dust? Take a listen to Anis Mojgani’s poem “Shake the Dust” and imagine living in a life where you “do not settle for letting these waves settle and for the dust to collect in your veins.”
Gathering the Stones is providing 40 days of reflections on resilience during Lent. Check back for new reflections every day (except Sundays).