2016 was hard. There, I said it! I am not good at admitting my own weakness and fragility. I would rather think that I am well-adjusted, balanced and all-around healthy. But 2016 was hard.
Like many, I was resolute to be a stronger, wiser and better me in 2017. That lasted 6 hours.
This morning I began reading from “The Daily Office” (scripture reading for each day) and was particularly moved by Psalm 103:14, “Because God knows how we’re made, God remembers we’re just dust” (CEB).
Well there goes my 2017 resolution to “pull myself up by my bootstraps,” to work harder and do more, to be healthier by running, eating better, exercising more… Not to say that all those things aren’t good (and I still hope to do them), but I’m just dust.
For some reason, I found that scripture to be incredibly deflating at first, then incredibly uplifting. Deflating because it seems to suggest that my frailty and smallness is insignificant. Then immediately uplifting because even though I am just a speck in the great cosmos of eternity, I am “remembered” by God.
Did I mention 2016 was hard? It was. But I begin 2017 with great optimism because I am just dust; dust that the Gardener of all things remembers and cares for. Dust that is loved by family and friends who are too good to me and love me well. Dust that is just a speck amongst the rest and uniquely crafted (like the rest!).
All of that is to say a few things:
- Life is hard, but love wins. See more on that here.
- Luther once said, “The Christian shoemaker does his or her duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.” That seems to suggest that all we can do this year is exactly what is in front of us. Nothing more, nothing less. Just like simple dust. We can’t be anything more or less than who we are. And to be who we are well, that is living into the grace of God.
- Mary Oliver once wrote, “Attention is the beginning of Devotion.”¹ Pay attention this year. Pay attention to what is right in front of you, who is around you and where you are. I am talking to myself because, have I mentioned yet that 2016 was a hard year? I think there were times I stopped paying attention because it hurt. But to be devout to God, my family, my friends and all the other specks of dust around me, I need to pay more attention. Really lean in, don’t be afraid of just how dusty I may appear.
I picked up one of my favorite books over the holiday break to read again. It is by M. Craig Barnes titled, Sacred Thirst: Meting God in the Desert of our Longings. He says:
God’s grace precedes and anticipates our faith in his love for us. We cannot even claim to love God apart from first discovering how much he loves us… There are days when even the greatest saints among us have a clearer sense of their thirst for God than of their love for God. But it really doesn’t matter – as long as we are clear about God’s love. We can always return to this love and rest in it, and in time we will find our own love for God restored again.²
2016 was hard, but it is alright because I am just dust. Dust that longs, that is dirty, that wants to get it right, that doesn’t want at all. I am dust that is remembered and loved by God.
So I will pay more attention. I will sit more and listen, really listen. And through it all, I will remember that love always wins.
Happy New Year my fellow specks of dust, and may 2017 be full of devotion to what is right in front of us.
- Mary Oliver, Upstream: Selected Essays, (New York, NY: Penguin Press, 2016), 8.
- M. Craig Barnes, Sacred Thirst: Meeting God in the Desert of our Longings, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2001), 89.