So it is about to be Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday. Every Ash Wednesday, we begin the journey with a reminder of our mortality. “Remember that you are dust,” we are told, as ash is smeared on our foreheads, “and to dust you shall return.”
Dust we are—the whole universe is some kind of dust arranged in infinitely beautiful and intricate ways. There is cosmic dust, and the dust that makes mud that makes fertile ground that grows things. Genesis speaks of all of this, and speaks with great reverence of the moment when God’s spirit is breathed into dust, and human consciousness is called into existence. Of course, this is not literal. But how beautifully poetic. The Genesis story connects us to all of creation, while telling us that the Creator took special, extra care with humanity, that we might also become creators—made in the image of God and infused the Divine Spirit of God. Breath is Spirit.
Even so—the created self that we are will one day die. Modern technology has challenged our understanding of the difference between life and death, but I believe it to be this: breath. When breath leaves us for the last time, our “dust” begins to become again the dust from which God creates. Our breath—who knows where it goes? Back into the breathing/creating/heart of God, I think.
On Ash Wednesday, I practice. I rehearse. I remember this part of my future—that I will die. I do this by reviewing my funeral plans. This is not depressing to me. It makes the present moment ever more precious, and the words of Corinthians that are always read on Ash Wednesday ever more meaningful: “Now is the time. Now is the acceptable time.” Now. Today. I am alive. Thanks be to God!
And then, it is Lent. And we are engaged anew in living, and dying and living again; beautiful cosmic, spirit infused dust that we are. Blessed Lenten journey.