You are dust and to dust you will return.

Today there will be Ash Wednesday church services and drive-through Imposition of Ashes throughout the land, and depending on where we live, we might see a lot of people with ash-smudged foreheads or we might not see a single person with ash marks. The secular might pull the devout aside and whisper, “Hey there’s something on your forehead” not knowing that this is an intentional mark of penitence and mortality often worn by Christians on the first day of Lent.

You are dust and to dust you will return.

Most of us don’t tell our children they are dust. We want our children to believe they are amazing and exceptional and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

Some of us adults possibly feel like we dwell in a suffocating ash heap. We don’t need a priest to tell us that we are dust and to dust we will return. We get it. We have swings of hopelessness. We continue to endure COVID-brain, COVID-appetite, COVID-fatigue. COVID-crankiness. We fight our neighbor over masks and vaccines. We will threaten our children’s teachers if they don’t listen to us Parents.

What does it mean – today – to have someone mark us with a cross of ashes on our foreheads and say, “You are dust and to dust you will return” ? Do we respond with “Duh. What else is new?” Do we feel even worse about ourselves? I hope this isn’t the case.

Not all dust is created equal.

  • Dust bunnies live under the sofa and they grow if not vacuumed up.
  • Furniture dust – if left long enough on the dining room table – can be written or drawn upon.

These forms of dust are uninspiring and allergy-provoking.

But then there is cosmic dust. Star dust. The dust of creation.

God created us in the beginning out of the kind of dust from which a universe could be molded and formed. And after we live this life, something mysterious happens that we can only imagine. We return to dust, but I get the idea that this is not a terrible thing.

Jesus died for these things: love, hope, deep peace, justice, freedom. When we find ourselves overwhelmed by the ash heaps of life, maybe it helps to reframe the dust from which we come and to which we will return.

Maybe it’s star dust.

Image of interstellar dust.

One response to “Dust

  1. The school librarian and I were marveling yesterday that we are still standing, this column of dust, after these dramatic, traumatic few years of pandemic and war. If we are still here, it means we still have work to do.


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