As a Protestant, and Baptist at that, I have only participated in an Ash Wednesday service where I received the imposition of ashes one time. It was a sobering event. The minister shared the words of Genesis 3:19 as she put the ashes on my flesh, “you are dust, and to dust you shall return”.
Could any verse more fully capture the morbidity of our condition? And that’s the point, isn’t it? To be reminded, as we begin the Lenten journey, of our humanity and it’s limited length of days. We are to be reminded of our complete and total dependence upon a Savior who provides us with both a newness and wholeness of life, even as he prepared to lay down his life for we dusty disciples.
I’m not a big fan of dust, are you? It seems like I’ve been spending quite a bit of time amidst dusty situations lately. Together with my siblings, we’ve been cleaning out our parents homestead. We’ve encountered storage closets, out buildings, and attics where there has been layer upon layer of dust. It’s worked its way into our noses and throats, our pores and bodies. We’ve been covered in dust and over exposed to dust. We’ve breathed it in and coughed it out. Can you say “yuck”? I have – over and again.
But truth be told we walk among dust all the time. Life itself is a dusty situation in that it is temporary and often bears the consequences of our dusty flesh. One of the great ironies of Lent is is that the word comes from the old English word “lencten” for the spring season or “lengthening of days”. Lent is observed in the time of year when the days begin to become noticeably longer. However, we are observing the shortening of Jesus’ days as we spend 40 days in prayer, fasting and preparation.
As something of a clean freak, dust bothers me. I don’t like to see it, feel it, let alone breathe it. But I am it, and so are you. The creation account we encounter in Genesis 2 tells us that God “formed man from the dust of the ground”. It was the breath of God that breathed life into him, that he became a living being. (Gen. 2:7) In other words, our very life’s breath is God breathed. We are inflatable dust!
Next week I will celebrate another birthday. This one puts me on the other side of 55, sliding ever closer to 60. I don’t need the calendar to tell me this. My body has been doing a pretty good job of it lately; probably because I’ve been asking it to do things it had not been used to doing. Dusty things!
Lent offers an opportunity to put life in perspective. Life is short. Life on this earth is temporary. It’s covered in dust – some that blows in with the wind and covers us unexpectedly, some that we create in our own whirlwind behaviors and choices. From dust we came and to dust our bodies will return. But in Christ we have been promised a new body upon our earthly tent’s demise. In Christ we have the breath of life. I hope to spend these 40 days remembering whose I am; dusting off, as it were, some of my self-importance in deference to the Savior, and in appreciation of His love. Will you join me?