“Shake the dust!” Whenever I hear this saying, I always envision sand falling from Dorothy’s shoes when she clicked her heels trying to leave Oz for Kansas.
“Baby, just shake the dust off your feet.” That was Big Mama’s conclusion to your heartbreak and her way of telling you to move forward and away from toxic people and situations. When a significant relationship ends, “shake the dust.” When you’ve suffered loss, “shake the dust.” When you’ve experienced disappointment, just “shake the dust.” Move on–move forward–don’t look back. Simple enough–until you experience something you just can’t shake. Then you want to ask Big Mama, “How in the world do you shake the dust?”
The phrase actually precedes Big Mama. It dates back to a Jewish tradition of exchanging sandals when you reach an agreement. The sandal exchange is characterized by two or more being on one accord, in unity, and or in partnership. However, in discussing what to do with irreconcilable disagreements in forms of rejection, betrayal, lies, and deceit, the New Testament reverses the sandal exchange. To give a personal paraphrase to Matthew 10:14, Jesus says, “take you and your sandals, leave the city, go outside the gate and before you go any further, shake the dust off your shoes thereby removing any remnant of the unfortunate experience!”
A recent experience with my niece, illustrates what Jesus might have meant by “shaking the dust.” Alyson, a member of Future Farmers of America, took me to see her cattle. She has a black and white steer named Snoopy and a brown heifer named Ginger. Before entering the barn, we changed shoes and put on our boots. While Alyson fed Snoopy and Ginger, I noticed swarms of flies buzzing on the ground. Underneath the covered paths were piles of manure. I didn’t fully consider the situation at the time, but in retrospect, we were literally standing in cow poop.
After attending the cows, it was time to leave. A wash area stood just outside the barn. We turned on the water and hosed the bottom of our boots. We spent a lot of time cleaning and inspecting our feet; because we knew that if we left even a little residue, we would track the manure into the car and cross contaminate our next destination.
Shaking the dust is the time we spend washing our boots following hurtful or disappointing experiences and cleansing ourselves of toxicity when we’ve spent too much time in unhealthy environments. It sounds as effortless as clicking your heels together to loosen debris, but actually requires being intentional and compulsive. In other words, you have to be deliberate and persistent to leave the past in the past and not drag it forward leaving a trail of old wounds and disappointments wherever you go.
Get started on your journey to your next destination by taking three steps to shaking the dust off your feet.
Pay attention. Look down. The shoes are on your feet. Where did you walk? What steps did you take? What is your responsibility for what has happened in your life? Did you ignore warning signs? Did you fail to plan? Did you allow corrosive situations to exist? Though you may or may not have been able to control or avoid all of the circumstances you’ve experienced, you can learn from each and every one of them.
Carve out time to pray–reflect–talk–read–journal and learn about your judgment, your decisions, your attitude, or your character and how they contributed to the outcome. Allow what you discover to grow, change, and mature you. Though this is a difficult and painful step, it is the key to avoid repeating the same experience in another situation.
CONTROL YOUR THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS
What are you thinking and how are you feeling? Your thoughts and feelings are your primary tie to your past. Ruminating about or focusing on what has happened only serves to strengthen the bonds to painful situations. Take control of your thoughts and refuse to become fixated on negative experiences. Replace bad thoughts with good ones and repeat affirming statements about you and your future.
How do you really want to feel? Then determine to feel that way. Refuse to be captured by overwhelming anger, bitterness, grief and other disturbing emotions. Decide how your going to feel and what you are going to think about. Then surround yourself with things and engage in activities that fuel the kinds of thoughts and emotions you desire. Take time to enjoy simple pleasures. Ride a bike, watch football, or spend time with friends and family. Living a full and satisfying life is a powerful step to dismantling valueless thoughts and defusing painful emotions.
Forgiveness is a non-negotiable component to shaking off the dust. I can almost hear a chorus of “Ugh!” Yes, I know….she did it, he said that, and they shouldn’t have! Well, isn’t that precisely why he or she needs forgiveness?
Let’s all ask ourselves, “how many times have we blown it and needed a little of God’s grace?” We didn’t receive grace because of our innocence or because we were so deserving. We received grace simply because God took pity and gave it to us. Oh happy day! That is how we forgive others who have caused us pain. They may not deserve it or have even asked for it, but just take pity and give it to them.
Go ahead and wave a white flag and forgive. Write an email, send a card, text or make a call. Pray for your enemies. Free yourself from the need to punish or repay and then use all of your energy on your next destination.
Follow these steps and watch the dust fall right off of your feet!