Dust….really?

“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” the minister intoned, marking an ashen cross on my forehead. While most ash impositions I’ve seen through the years end up looking like a smudgy thumbprint on the forehead, mine was a well-defined cross an inch-and-a-half tall and wide. I wore it proudly, feeling a profound and silent connection with others I saw who had received ashes that day, knowing that they too embraced this ritual too often forgotten in most Protestant traditions.

I find the Ash Wednesday liturgy so meaningful because of those words spoken as the ashes are imposed: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Combine that with the overall message of solemnity and repentance preached today, and one is reminded of the brevity of life, and the weight one’s relationship with God carries.

I close my eyes, only for a moment, and the moment’s gone
All my dreams, pass before my eyes, a curiosity

Dust in the wind, all they are is dust in the wind.

Same old song, just a drop of water in an endless sea
All we do, crumbles to the ground, though we refuse to see

Dust in the wind, all we are is dust in the wind.

Don’t hang on, nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky
It slips away, and all your money won’t another minute buy.

Dust in the wind, all we are is dust in the wind.
Dust in the wind, everything is dust in the wind.

-Kansas


The writer of Ecclesiastes seems to understand this line of thinking, “Everything is meaningless,” (Ecclesiastes 1:2 NIV) some English translations say it, but a more accurate translation is vapor, vanity, or dust. Everything is vapor. All we are is dust in the wind, as the song says.

I remember a night in college, during the semester I took Astronomy. Having learned just how vast the universe is, and how small even our whole galaxy is in comparison to all of space, I looked up at the sky with a new perspective. Distressed over whatever guy was causing me trouble at the time, I cried out to God, and yet at the same time thought, “why should my problems matter? If the Milky Way is but a speck, how small is Earth, and how much smaller is my own aching heart?” Yet, in the midst of that existential realization, I believed that God still cared, no matter how small I am. It was I who needed to see my problems as but a speck.

As one of my favorite Christian songs says, I am a flower quickly fading, here today and gone tomorrow, a wave tossed in the ocean, a vapor in the wind. Still, You hear me when I’m calling, You catch me when I’m falling, and You told me who I am. I am Yours. That “still” is so poignant there, offering the listener the dual comfort of knowing the difficulties of one’s life are fleeting, and yet God still cares.

I, for one, feel lucky to be dust.

“Create in me a clean heart O God and renew a right spirit within me.”
(Ps 51:10)

Read Psalm 51 and then spend time in silence meditating on its implications for your life. As you look into a mirror, and using a felt-tip marker or soap, write or draw onto your reflection words and symbols that represent your anxieties and fears. When you are ready, spray glass cleaner onto the mirror and wipe it clean. Pray together for God’s cleansing in your hearts.Reflect on those things in your life that focus you on yourself rather than on God.

Questions to ponder:

What is one thing you struggle with that distracts you from a whole-hearted commitment to Christ? Write down your areas of struggle on a piece of paper.

How could you use this first week of Lent to initiate a new spiritual discipline that would bring reconciliation and healing in your place of struggle?

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