I've never really "done Lent" and I can't say I'm doing such a great job this year. I started out okay. I went to Ash Wednesday services and had the priest pronounce, "From dust you were made and to dust you shall return." Ash Wednesday starts the "dry season" of the church calendar. We enter the desert with the Israelites, and with Jesus, to contemplate our mortality, or sinful character and our ultimate deliverance by God's grace, through Jesus' death and resurrection. In the desert we try to strip away the trappings of "life" and see ourselves as we are, made of dust.
Like I said, I started off okay. I don't eat meat on Fridays and I've tried to study the Real Presence during this time. But in the past week my prayer life has faltered again and my studying hit a snag. (I misplaced my book.) But while I waited for the book to resurface, I happened to see that one of my favorite mystery writers, Martha Grimes, had a new book out. Can you guess the title? Dust. It was appropriate, especially since the use of the word was not arbitrary by the author. We were made to feel that vulnerable feeling of being "dust." Can we choose our lives? Are we really in control? Sin sucks us in and dries us out until we are dust.
It seems ironic, too, that in the past two or three weeks I've heard the Kansas song, Dust in the Wind several times, after not hearing it for years. Here is a link that has the lyrics and the audio of Kansas performing the song: http://ladynwavsone.com/dustinthewind.html (By the way, the Native American motif is appropo, since the inspiration for the song was a Native American poem.)
These three references to "dust" in my life during Lent have helped me to focus. Even though I've not accomplished what I started out to (I did find the book, and studies are back on track) I did find that God was teaching me something important. For the past 5 or 6 years I've been contemplating my own mortality. Perhaps I'm a bit young for that, being a few months shy of 52 now, but there are reasons. My dad was diagnosed with cancer at 52 and died at 55. That seemed young then, and it seems impossibly young now. But as I've gotten closer and closer to the age my dad died, I feel more and more like dust. For years that has depressed me and, frankly, scared me. I've been fearful, and it has changed the way I relate to God. Doubts are more vivid, reassurances more necessary. For some reason the thought of never waking up is terrifying.
This year God seems to be bringing it to a head..."You are dust." But He is also telling me something more important. "That's not the end of the story." For the first time in my life, the Incarnation is taking on a new and more profound meaning. God became that very dust he created. He was dust. He made the dust holy. He loved the dust he made so much he came down to wallow in it and feel it, to breathe it and taste it and live in it. But that's not the end of the story, either. He has made the dust imperishable.
Someday, I'm gonna get new dust. And that dust will live forever.