Sigmund Freud coined the term “childhood amnesia” – the inability to remember anything before three years old. Most modern researchers concur that we remember little of our early years, and even the years before we turn seven are a bit sketchy. But I remember, in vivid picture, sound and feeling, the dust particles sparkling in the sunlit space above the dresser. It was the year I turned five and we were “living on the economy”, a phrase used by U.S. Army personnel living outside the base. In our case it was Waldorf, Germany, a quaint and adorable little burg of cobblestone streets, old buildings, stork’s nests on chimneys and the pungent smell of manure from what was still an agrarian society. Our family lived in the upstairs apartment of a building owned by our landlord Hans. The memories, while fleeting and sometimes broken into mere picture frames rather than movies, are palpable.
But back to that dust.
I was “helping” mom with the household chores as I hadn’t started school yet, that brief time in life when I had Mom all to myself. We were dusting the furniture when I noticed that the dust was suspended in the air, almost as if it was waiting to land as soon as we were done. Which indeed it did. And it prompted me to ask my mother – “Why are we dusting, the dust just comes back.” My mom, a very practical woman, just said it was what we did. But she was amused by my question because I heard her repeat the story to her friends for a good chuckle.
The Bible tells us in Genesis 2:7 that we are formed from the dust of the ground. He used the basic matter of the universe to make us – but it also goes on to tell us He breathed His essence, Life, into that dust creation. But regardless of our divine possibility we are also fully assured that this body makes a circle of life and ends up where it began:
“All go to one place: all are from the dust, and all return to dust.” Ecclesiastes 3:20
My takeaway from all this dust theology isn’t that we are unimportant or even insignificant – after all, the dirt of this Earth is fairly critical to the whole construct. It is instead that we are, each of us, very small parts in the whole creation, both in time and space. Lest we think too much of ourselves we are reminded that there are a lot of us. As God told Abraham:
“And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered.” Genesis 13:16
So we are dust, but the God who made us thought enough of us to impart some of his essence – Life – in us. We are some very high quality dust indeed.
The Biblical narrative spends a lot of time reminding us that God has plans for us, cares for us, designed us for fellowship with him, wants us to succeed and prosper and grow and enjoy life on this planet until our days are up and then leave this dust bag behind to join Him in the ethereal realm. As a matter of fact, it’s safe to say that the Bible is about how we, the dust-people, can and should relate to the One who formed us.
Which brings me back to that dust.
To each of us, at least to the most of us who are not mystics or have tipped over to a spiritual existence that transcends our flesh (don’t worry, I don’t know those people either), we are what matters. It’s called ego – we are concerned about ourselves and, by extension, to the people and circumstances that matter to us. Even though we are dust – the smallest particles of earth – we are as big as a mountain in our thoughts. We can’t help it and it’s not my place to even call that out as wrong. It just is the truth. So when we have a problem it is the biggest problem on this Earth.
It’s been severely cold lately and here in the South we don’t usually deal with single digit temperatures. A lady posted online that her pipes were frozen. Now to most of us that is an annoyance for sure but hardly a tragedy – they will thaw, a plumber can come and help us, it’ll be okay. But to this person it was an enormous problem as she had no water and no money to fix the problem. In the entire universe there was not a single problem that was greater than hers – perhaps coupled with the fact her mother was dying and her car wouldn’t start. Nothing mattered more to her in this world – not a nuclear North Korea or illegal immigration or the latest scandal in Hollywood.
As I’m sure you have figured out by now, problems are with us always. Sick with the flu and the heat pump went down and husband was downsized plus the dog got out and is lost and babies need shoes. Never mind my boss is the devil my car failed emission testing and the stove won’t light and the teacher called about Bobby. Again. Problems are real and important and huge – not dust-like at all. The problems we have individually are the biggest problems in the world. At least in our world, anyway. And yet we read Jesus saying things like this:
“So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” Matthew 6:28-30
Does our Lord and Savior not understand our plight? Does He not get that our problems are enormous and are crushing us down here? We need healing, prosperity, wisdom, comfort, joy and plenty. And we need it NOW.
So back to that dust. Again.
We are dust, small-tiny-minuscule-insignificant dust. If you look down from space on Google and see Earth and keep zeroing in and see America and zero in more and see Tennessee and keep going to the street you live on – you will not see you or me. That’s how small we are. And if we are that small, how small are our problems, really? In the grand scheme of things, in the space-time continuum, a hundred years from now, if we, as dust, have problems now how are they measured?
Well, no greater philosopher had the answer than when she was describing the character Danny Zuko in the musical Grease – listen to the words of Frenchy:
“Men are rats, listen to me, they’re fleas on rats, worse than that, they’re amoebas on fleas on rats. I mean, they’re too low for even the dogs to bite. The only man a girl can depend on is her daddy.”
Substitute problem for men and voila – our dust-people problems are sub-dust particles, fleas on dust, worse, amoebas on fleas on dust. They are small. And that last sentence is the bombshell – the only One we can depend on is our Daddy.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:33-34
The God who took the time to form you from dust, the One who breathed His very Life into you, the same that has watched over you, heard your cries, seen your troubles, felt your pain and even went so far as to send His son to live your life and die to give it back to you, that God, that Father understands fully. You are not dust in the wind to Him.
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
So here’s the good news – the troubles in our life are always with us and always will be. Whether it’s frozen pipes to the one with no money to fix it or a billion-dollar loss to the tycoon who has it all, trouble is trouble. You can dust to your heart’s content and the dust – the troubles – will be back. And as long as you have troubles (which will be always) you will have the assurance that there is a God who made you, breathed you into existence, cares for you. And loves you.
“As a father pities his children,
So the Lord pities those who fear Him.
For He knows our frame;
He remembers that we are dust.” Psalm 103:14
We may be dust, but we are not just dust in the wind.