Thursday, February 23, 2012

he remembers that we are dust, letter eleven, hilary to preston

On Tuesdays and Thursdays around our small corner of the blogging world, Preston and I write letters back and forth. We share about theology, about grace, about the mystery of becoming like the One who is our peace. I'm writing back to Preston today. Read his last letter to me here.

Dear Preston,

I was sitting in the Ash Wednesday service in Chapel here, waiting to feel the dusty thumbprint of the priest across my forehead. If you can, picture this: I have an impatient, perturbed expression on my face. You see, I've been feeling a bit anonymous lately, and I've complained loudly about it to anyone who will wait long enough to hear me.

I've complained that the work is unseen, or not right, or not enough. I've complained that God isn't giving me what I want, when I want. I've been jealous, grasping at the joy others have in some strange attempt to have it for myself. You see, I want the acceptance letters, and the financial aid packages, and the affirmation that yes, they want you. I want to be sure of what's next.

So I'm sitting in Chapel, with my feet propped up against the bar that holds the hymnals and the pew Bibles, staring at my feet in their copper colored Sperry's. And then the priest says something that picks me up by the scruff of my neck and flings me back against the pew, back against the back wall. He says something that has a mighty rush of truth, and I'm quaking under it.

Go read Psalm 103. 

It doesn't seem like much. But I wrote to you not all that long ago that I felt like it was time to let Scripture into my heart. And I forgot about it, and didn't read, or didn't devote the right time to reading, not as I should. Not as I said I would. So the words - "Go read Psalm 103" felt like being flung from one end of the sanctuary to the other.

And when I read it, the Lord said:

 The LORD is compassionate and gracious,
   slow to anger, abounding in love.
 He will not always accuse,
   nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
   or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
   so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
   so far has he removed our transgressions from us
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.
The life of mortals is like grass,
   they flourish like a flower of the field;
the wind blows over it and it is gone,
   and its place remembers it no more.
But from everlasting to everlasting
   the LORD’s love is with those who fear him
   and his righteousness with their children’s children—
with those who keep his covenant
   and remember to obey his precepts.

Preston - I forgot. I forgot that I'm dust. In my haste to believe I'm more, that I deserve something, that I am owed something, that God should have given me something other than what He has given me... I forgot that we are dust. That I'm dust. Fallen, fragile, so easily broken and so deeply sinful. 

But He remembers that we are dust. And He gives us everlasting love. He remembers that the wind blows over and it is gone, and so He gives us righteousness to our children's children, to those who keep His covenant. He remembers us when we cannot remember ourselves. And in spite of my posturing, my pride, my strutting around like a peacock preening her feathers? He flings my sins as far as east is from west, and gives me compassion. 

I'm blown away, blessed beyond measure, and still dusty. And I wonder how to hold this lesson, this reminder from God that He has a story to tell me about real love. 

Perhaps we must begin with our fragile selves. Perhaps the only place to begin is Ash Wednesday. Perhaps the story starts with remembering that we are dust, and to dust we shall return. 

Love, and grace and peace in all their fullness,


  1. "Perhaps the only place to begin is Ash Wednesday."

    Yes, yes. Yesterday, I found myself forgetting that I had ashes on my forehead all day. And then someone would ask me about them, or I would look in the mirror, and there they were, shockingly.

    ... I just feel what you're writing a bout is kindof like that, ha.

    I am bad at wearing ashes, and remembering I am dust.

  2. Remembering that I am dust sometimes is easier than remembering that the Breath of the Most High fills me.
    Remembering that I am nothing sometimes is easier than remembering that God makes me something incredible.
    But I think you are right, in that we must begin with our dust-ness. We ARE indeed dust, and to dust shall return, and so how GREAT is what He has done in us!

  3. Yes, Suzanne, yes. From the first realization I think comes all the others that you say. 

  4. Antonia - I am so bad at it, too. And I had the same thing happen to me yesterday - someone asked, "What is that?" and I said, "What is what?" Perhaps we can begin, however badly, by being surprised in that reminder. Thank you for stopping by.

  5. Hilary, I loved every word of this. It hit me hard as well, thank you my sweet friend, I love the way you share your heart. You bless me SO much!!

  6.  Thank you, thank you, friend. I miss you, friend. Meeting you in October is still one of the highlights of this year for me. I so hope we meet again soon. May God bless you this weekend.

  7. Good post. (I follow Preston's blog and bounced over here after reading his response.)

    I had my own "go read psalm 103" moment a looong time ago (1989? I'm old), and the Holy Spirit had a very different lesson for me from that same psalm. (For me, it was a reminder of God's patience with my failings, that he was more patient with me than I was.) Love how the Living Word speaks different things to different people from the same passage.

  8. Thank you for stopping by, Dan. I do love how the Word speaks to each of us as we need it. 


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