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Jen Pollock Michel

( author + writer + speaker )

Breaking the Bread of Belief: Lenten Faith in Dust

jenmichel@me.com

Dust Image courtesy of Joetography

Dust is the symbol of Lent.

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

Humanity is constituted of dust.

In the second chapter of Genesis, we are taken to the scene where God makes the first human being. The Divine stoops low and scoops into his eternally creative hands a handful of dust. What can be made of this pile of dirt? And what imaginative vision will be required for beholding shape and form, even dignity in so inauspicious a mound?

“The LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”

The LORD God.

As Hagar understands and names him, He is the God who sees (cf. Gen. 16:13). It is the imaginative vision of the LORD God, a vision as wide as the universe and as long as eternity, that beholds what humanity can become.

As a writer, I have curiosity for these questions: Who am I? Where do I find myself? What purpose does my life serve? My appetite as a writer is as I describe it in my book: “Words [are] the instinctual way I puzzle out the world. They are the tools I take to my mysteries, as if by them I can carve up who I am and where in this big world I find myself.” And if there is something I find easy to believe about myself, it is that I am dust. To believe myself to be dust takes no grand effort of energy. It is a truth hung visibly around my neck, a blinking neon advertisement.

Dust.

Yesterday, we are hurrying out the door for church. I am operating on four hours of sleep. When Nathan chastens Andrew angrily, “Hurry up! Get your shoes on!” I peer from the top of the stairs and say, “Ask him gently, Nathan. There’s no need to be rude.” But when I look to find Andrew sitting obstinately in the middle of the mudroom, unflinching at the necessity of haste, I scream. “Get your shoes on!”

Dust.

Dust has obvious knack for failing the standard of heroic.

No, to believe that I am dust – my lifespan but a faltering wisp in eternity’s winds despite all I do to immortalize myself– is not difficult.

Dust.

But to believe that God has imaginative vision for dust, that God grants dignity to his dirt, that God is mindful of every human creature, numbering their hairs, collecting their tears, and counting their days?

This will require faith.

But I think it is a Lenten faith, the very faith that will usher us into the miracle of Easter where God once again stoops low, this time constituting his own being into dust, becoming like us that he might, in a body, mount this massive campaign of persuasion:

You are dust. And I have loved you with an everlasting love.

* * * * *

This is the second in a series of posts entitled, "Breaking the Bread of Belief."

1: "First Words of Faith: In the beginning"

"To believe in a purposeful, coherent architecture to the stories of our brokenness requires faith.

To believe in an Architect - with a will for good in the midst of pain - is and only ever will be apprehended by faith."

Also, for your Holy Week, you may want to revisit the prayers I wrote several years ago:

Holy Week Prayers: Hosanna

Holy Week Prayers: To See and to Love Holy Week Prayers: Betrayals

Holy Week Prayers: The Surprise of Grace

Holy Week Prayers: Healing the Divide

Holy Week Prayers: The Friday that was Good

Holy Week Prayers: Saturdays of Doubt and Fear

Holy Week Prayers: Resurrection Morning