I have felt my frailty more acutely these days. On a Saturday morning when my tired body longs to sleep in, but my one-year-old is ready for breakfast before the sun has risen. After a silly argument with my husband in which I say things I really don’t mean, harsh words full of pride and arrogance. In the middle of a busy workday, when I am overwhelmed with all of the tasks before me, all of the needs I see in the life of our church, and I am reminded of my inability to do it all. In the midst of a stomach virus, weary from fever and nausea, hearing my husband care for my daughter down the hall while I am confined to our bedroom, quarantining to keep germs away from the ones I love.
We would like to pretend we are not frail, wouldn’t we? On my so-called “better” days, I try to convince myself that I can do it all. I’m pulling out of the garage by 7:30 a.m. and will make it to the office on time! I’ve meal-prepped and packed a healthy lunch for myself! I’ve got a load of laundry in the washing machine, ready for my husband to put in the dryer later that day! I’ve meal-planned for our family for the next nine years! (Total exaggeration on this last one, but you get my drift.)
And then, the aforementioned stomach virus enters my house and causes chaos in all kinds of ways, and I am reminded, again, of my frailty and feebleness.
A Dusty Inheritance
The season of Lent is helpful for me in this regard. Not all denominations observe Lent, and I’m not fastidious about keeping a Lenten fast (see what I did there?). But there is something about this season marked by dust that recognizes our deficiencies and need for a Savior. Not too long ago, at Ash Wednesday services around the world, many believers gathered to be marked by ashes and remember God’s words after Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden of Eden: “For you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:19
We live in a world that is constantly trying to push back the “dustiness” of our humanity, from creams for fine lines to hair dyes meant to cover those pesky grays. None of these things are evils, in and of themselves, but sometimes I wonder if we use them as a concealment to try to ignore the truth before our eyes, that we are in fact, dust.
We are frail, and we are feeble, and we are needy. Sin entered the world that day when Adam and Eve chose to believe the lie of the serpent rather than the truth of God’s promises, and ever since that day, we share in our ancestors’ dusty inheritance.
We are dust, and to dust we shall return.
What does it mean that we are dust? It means that we are fallen and susceptible to sin and sickness, yes, but it also means that one day we will die and return to the dust, the same dust that God once breathed life into when he fashioned Adam in the Garden (Genesis 2:7). Lent is a season of remembering that we are dust, a season of repentance and remembering our need for the Lord, but it’s also a season of remembering God’s compassion, especially on those who are dust.
In Psalm 103, David declares the lovingkindness of God, and in a particularly moving stanza, he compares the love of God to that of a parent:
As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame
he remembers that we are dust. Psalm 103:13-14
Why does God show us compassion? Why are we the recipients of his mercy? It’s not because we come to God with a long list of good deeds or because he has been tricked into believing the lie that we have it all together. No, God shows us tender love because of our relationship with him, because he is our father. And because he is our father, he remembers where we came from. He’s the one who formed us, after all, and he knows we are dust. It is no surprise to him.
God knows we are dust. He created us. He knows our limitations and our weaknesses. And because of that, he shows us mercy. Our days are like grass, but his steadfast love for his children will never end. Isn’t this good news for us on the days when we feel like we don’t have it together, when our bones ache and our joints sigh and we’re full of regret over something we did (or didn’t do) and we are waiting for our faith to be made sight?
Covered in Dust
As this particular season of Lent draws to an end, I am reminded that in Jesus, God covered himself in the dust of humanity.
In the incarnation, God put on flesh in the person of Jesus Christ, and in so doing, he took on our dust. He came and put on our proverbial shoes, so to speak, and pitched his tent in our neighborhood. He knows our frame and remembers that we are dust, not just because he created us, but also because became dust for us. And though he is without sin and therefore altogether unlike us, our Great High Priest nonetheless empathizes with our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15) because he has been there. He knows our frame; he remembers we are dust.
You are dust, and to dust you will return. Though you are frail, feeble, and fallen, the Lord God Almighty is anything but. He has loved you with an everlasting love, and his compassion knows no end. Rest in this good news today. He knows your frame; he remembers you are dust. And he loves you anyway.
About the Author
Amy is a follower of Christ, wife, mother, and associate minister. She's always loved writing and learned in her formative years how writing helped her process life and faith. In her spare time, Amy loves to go for walks with her family, linger in bookstores, and curl up on the couch with a good book and warm cup of coffee. You can read more of her writing at simplyames.wordpress.com.