Artwork by Katherine Kwong
Wherever I sit, whatever I eat, whatever I do with my hands this day, may I become more aware of my own limitations and the expansiveness of God’s power.
For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far he removes our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion for his children, so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him. For he knows how we were made; he remembers that we are dust. As for mortals, their days are like grass; they flourish like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more
Dusting used to be one of my least favorite chores. Unlike some kinds of dirt that can remain hidden, dust only builds over time. Eventually, the satisfaction of microfiber cloths trapping that doughty layer of dirt became one of my favorite chores. However, I don’t dust as often as I should. Only when the dust is thick enough to disgust me do I grab a cloth, move objects, and dust away.
So, what is the Psalmist saying when the Lord remembers our frames, our bodies, and recalls we are made of dust? That line is in the middle of a series of promises. Metaphors of God’s love toward us are as the great distance between east and west and the love of a father for his children. “For he knows how we were made; he remembers we are dust.” The Psalmist goes from expansive metaphors to using this transition to emphasize Lord’s care for us. Down to what we are made of, the Lord is mindful of us. The subsequent verses speak specifically to our earthly mortality. Earthy images of dust, grass, and flowers heighten this emphasis on what is lowly, temporal, and in a way powerless to forces like the wind.
Perhaps the Psalmist wants to remind us that we are dust. In contrast to a Holy God, we are but dust. We have limitations, a sense of knowledge that is incomplete, and at times very little power to do what we want.
In what ways would we do well to remember we are dust?
The thought is both encouraging and humbling. Our enemies are dust. Our best efforts are dust.
Christ became dust and lived among us. In the rousing words of The Oh Hellos:
“Well, even the great celestial hieroglyphs
Are bodies of dust illuminated, and if
The heavens can be both sacred and dust
Oh, maybe so can the rest of us”
Summer Wars – Mamoru Hosada – This 2010 animated film follows a teenage boy, Kenji, who is pulled into a summer family reunion by his high school crush. What follows is a story of contrasting worlds: the seemingly free online world of Oz and the complicated family dynamics of the Jinouchi Clan. I return to this film when I want to think about family, grief, and what unity means. There are specific moments of power and powerlessness (digital dust) that drive the plot. Watching people fail and rise up is inspiring as well as the redemption of a prodigal son. All of these themes take place in the backdrop of a lively, animated world in the Japanese countryside. Watch the trailer in the link and consider viewing this film with friends or family.
“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honor.” –Psalm 8:3-5