“By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” ~ Genesis 3:19
It’s the time of Lent in the Christian tradition. According to information on UMC.org, the United Methodist Church website:
“Lent is a time of repentance, fasting and preparation for the coming of Easter. It is a time of self-examination and reflection. In the early church, Lent was a time to prepare new converts for baptism. Today, Christians focus on their relationship with God, often choosing to give up something or to volunteer and give of themselves for others.”
Increasingly, Lent has also become about adding to. In addition to things we all need to give up, there are often things we need to add to our lives. That can mean giving of our time working for the good of others. It can also mean, however, slowing down enough to really participate in Lent on a spiritual level beyond rote ceremony. Ceremony wholly by itself is rather meaningless. What makes it meaningful year after year is discovering what the ceremony means to each of us in our own spiritual path. As with Christmas, we can treat it as a day and then back to business as usual or we can celebrate Advent re-remembering the meaning it has for each of us.
Lent has gotten me thinking about ashes and dust – as in ashes to ashes, dust to dust. If we could all remember that we came from dust and will one day return to dust, perhaps we would all treat our dusty home considerably better. I’ve never been a big fan of the idea of reincarnation; much of the journey through this life has been rough enough so perhaps I don’t feel a particular need to try it again. Having said that, though, it occurs to me that this is very much a part of the meaning of the idea of dust to dust and so also Lent.
At some point, each of us will breathe our last breath and our dusty shell will gradually return to the earth. I’m a fan of recycling and it occurs to me that each of us is likely made up of a part of many, many ancestors from eons past. That means, naturally, this would include those pesky mosquitoes each of us has swatted down through the ages or the meat we have eaten.
I find it quite satisfying knowing that I will help a future generation of life by providing a small portion of the dust needed to put together that future generation. In that way, each of us will be reincarnated countless times until the end of time. The fact that a bit of my dust may end up as part of the body of a dung beetle makes no difference whatever.
My point is this: we are all connected to everything else on earth and in the universe. We are supposed to be here as stewards of the earth, not to have control over the earth. If we could do away with the idea that some of us deserve more than another – we don’t – we would find that peace would naturally follow and we’d stop the wanton destruction of our home.
Perhaps for Lent this year, we should make mud pies – if only to be able to watch them return to dust.