• Mary Ponicki

Red Dirt Road - Brooks & Dunn

Reminiscent and redeeming, Red Dirt Road reminds us that we are not defined by our sin, suffering, or possessions.

I’ve always been a sucker for a song with my name in it, I think that’s what initially drew me to the song Red Dirt Road by Brooks & Dunn. When that excitement wore off, I kept it on my playlists. There is just something so timeless about the melody and relatable about the lyrics that keeps me coming back to this song. For those of you who haven’t listened, the song is reminiscent in nature: It tells the story of a man who grew up on an old country road and the memories attached to it. However, the song is more than just reminiscent, it’s redemptive. In many ways it reminds me of the story of the Prodigal Song - a story of loss, realization, and redemptive love.


Sinners and Believers

There are three lines from this song that I want to take a look at today. The first is one of two lessons the singer has learned from his time on the red dirt road,

“I learned the path to Heaven is full of sinners and believers”

What I love about this lyric is that it reminds us that when abusing our free will leads us to sin, we are not thrown from the path to Heaven. Arguably one of the most beautiful parts of our faith is that God’s love for us does not falter. We are loved through our lowest points and our best. And while our low points may knock us down on the journey to sainthood, they do not knock us off the path entirely. Our journey to Heaven will not be a straight shot, we will struggle because sin is inherently a part of human nature. However, sin does not have to hold us back - God created each of us knowing that we would fall to it at some time or another. And while some days our free will may lead us to sin, it is also our most redemptive feature. Without free will we would not be able to sincerely love our God; we would not be able to get back on our feet and keep going. Think about it: God cannot force us to love Him, otherwise we’d be robotically worshiping Him. It is an act of love to choose Him over and over again. It is an act of love to choose to continue towards God’s open arms, even when we have sinned. So on days that you are struggling, look around you, so are your brothers and sisters in Christ. We are all sinners but better yet we are all believers, progressing every day towards eternal life with our Heavenly Father.


Embrace Your Cross

The second line that I love from this song is the second lesson learned,

“Happiness on earth ain’t just for high achievers”

This lyric reminds us that our faith is enough. It is easy to get swept up in the materialistic mannerism of this world - social media tells us that money, fame, & valuables will give us “our best life.” And to a certain extent this can be true: created goods are meant to point to our Creator. If we choose to love them in an ordered, realistic manner they can be very good. The problem arises when we treat them as a god. The truth is, nothing created can bring us true happiness. Worldly objects and people can provide us with a glimpse of true happiness, but nothing lasting. Our only lasting happiness will come from union with God in Heaven. We are reminded of this in the book of Matthew, from the infamous line,

“The last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Matthew 20:16)

So how do we achieve this happiness? We must pick up our cross and follow Christ. As I mentioned above, we cannot avoid suffering in our life because there is sin in this world. However, that does not mean we should be discouraged when we find ourselves face to face with it. Suffering has been redeemed by Christ’s death on the cross. When we unite ourselves to Him in this state, our suffering, like His, becomes an act of love. And if the world’s greatest act of love opened the gates to Heaven and conquered death, then surely our acts of love can achieve greatness as well. After all, we too are made in God’s image. This is how we know happiness is closer than we think. It is not found in the objects and experiences that only the “high achievers” can afford or obtain, it is found in the most attainable form: each of our daily struggles. Happiness is the hope of Heaven, and when we embrace the cross we have been given to bear we give ourselves over to that hope.


An Inviting Love

The last lyric that I want to focus on can be found in the bridge.

“I went out into the world and I came back in. I lost Mary, oh, I got her back again. And driving home tonight feels like I’ve found a long lost friend.”

For context, we meet Mary in the beginning of the song alongside the red dirt road where she is picking blackberries. It is assumed she is his first love. This lyric in particular is what gives the song a redemptive tone, reminding me of the story of the Prodigal Son. The singer has built himself a good life on this road, but he desires more, so he ventures out into the world, leaving what he holds dearly (Mary) behind. At some point however, he is reminded of the beauty of what he had, and so he returns. In the song's words, this return feels like finding “a long lost friend.” To be reunited with a friend, especially one whom you have not seen in a long time, is an indescribable joy. Many of you may have experienced this in your lifetime. There is a sense of feeling renewed, of feeling whole again. This is the same kind of love we see in the story of the Prodigal Son when he is reunited with his father. Open, welcoming love that envelops you like a hug. Imagine this feeling amplified: that is just a smidge of the love that God shows to you. We are loved by a redemptive Father - one who will always welcome us with open arms. No matter if we have sinned, no matter if we have strayed, we can always come “back in.”

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