As I run in the gym I listen again and again through Isaiah 40, then move on to 41, 42, 43. We are made and formed, fragile and temporary. And deeply loved and held. Again and again the two are linked: we are made, therefore carried; made, so our Maker takes our hand and helps us; made, so He stays with us through rivers that threaten to swallow and flames that threaten to destroy.
We are dust. And the one who shaped us doesn’t forget.
“As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.” (Psalm 103:13-14)
This Wednesday, people of many Christian traditions will celebrate the beginning of Lent, the six-week journey in which we walk with Jesus toward the cross and resurrection. We will begin the journey with a liturgy in which a cross of ashes will be marked on our foreheads as a minister speaks to us the words, “Remember that you are dust.”
In our world of Vacuums and Swiffers and preoccupation with appearance, dust can seem a dirty word. Or at least a failing. But as Walter Brueggemann reminds us in his marvelous article, “Remember, you are dust,” the call to remember that we are dust is not a summons to pick up a heavier burden of guilt but a call to lighten the load, to learn again to rest in the hands of the One who himself remembers—not our sins but our creaturely fragility, not his anger, but his unfailing love and faithful provision (Ps 103).