A Word about Dust

Ash Wednesday

I’m writing about dust as I look out of the window and see white dust fall from the sky. It’s snowing again…

Remember that you are dust and that to dust you shall return. 

These words are sacred speak that are a part of the Ash Wednesday service liturgy. They are spoken by the pastor as they impose (a fancy word for put or place) ashes on your forehead. These ashes literally mark the beginning of the season that is Lent – 40 days of reflection, repentance, remembering and renewal that all lead to crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ.

Lent is a solemn occasion for sure, but I find it to be my favorite church season. I’m reflective by nature so this doesn’t come as a surprise. I also am someone who appreciates imagery and reminders of humanness; of brokenness, of being a part of something bigger than ourselves and of the need for restoration by something outside of ourselves.

Have you ever really dealt with ashes? Seen someone’s body reduced to ashes? My family cremates our faithful departed. And we don’t bury their remains. We keep them. We choose urns that speak to the person’s life and we create sacred space in our house so that they are always with us. One might be concerned that we are  running out of urn space in my parent’s house… That being said, I’ve seen the body of an elderly loved one go from flesh, bones and spirit to flesh and bones to ash. It never ceases to amaze how one person’s life can be reduced a small baggie full of fine, gray dust. It’s humbling. It’s terrifying. It’s the reality that is life.

Remember that you are dust and that to dust you shall return. 

Whenever Ash Wednesday rolls around, I can’t help but think specifically of the ashes that are kept in my family’s home. I can’t help but think of the full lives lived; of the joy, of the pain, of the dual nature of human life. We are strong and resilient, able to withstand the greatest physical, mental, emotional and spiritual adversity. Yet, we are frail and breakable. Our bodies, minds and souls can literally crumble under pressure. It’s fitting imagery for me as we begin this journey to the cross, one that calls us to reflect and repent.

Remember that you are dust and that to dust you shall return. 

The other thing that I can’t help but think about when I reflect on dust is the way it pervades our surroundings. Have you ever been in a dusty place? A space that has been closed up or untouched? A space where dust has settled on every surface, in every nook, in every cranny? A funny thing happens when that dust is disturbed. All hell breaks loose. It fills the air and is hard to contain. It gets in our eyes, in our noses and in our lungs. It causes us to cough and sneeze.  It gets everywhere and after spending time in a dusty space, one’s inclination is to clean up – wash off and breathe in fresh air. We are beginning a season of disturbing the dust, of rolling in the holy mess and of it impacting our entire being. And we have to sit with it, because that’s what this season is about. 40 days. 40 nights. Remembering that you are dust and that to dust you shall return.




2 thoughts on “A Word about Dust

  1. Pam says:

    Thank you. Wonderful words that helped put the season into perspective for me.

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