“All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return.” Ecclesiastes 3:20
I hate dust.
I remove everything from my bedroom furniture and arm myself with a yellow can of Pledge. I wipe down every corner and feel great satisfaction as I scan the clean room which is now dust free.
Two days later, I walk into my bedroom and notice that I can write my name across the top of the dresser once again.
It is a never ending battle, this battle with dust.
And every time I wipe the dust away, somewhere deep inside I try to convince myself that this is the last time I will ever have to dust. Ridiculous, I know.
I think I do that with my humanity too. I long for the great days. To feel nothing but joy, connection, love and meaning. If perfection came in the form of a can of Pledge, I think I might walk around all day just spraying everything as much as possible.
Why am I always so surprised about the harder days? Why am I so surprised by my humanity?
Maybe Jesus doesn’t want me spraying the Pledge as much as He wants me to allow Him to enter my struggle.
Brennan Manning, in Souvenirs of Solitude, reminds me of something I want to think about during this Lenten season.
“Jesus did not die a death with dignity but a death endured, screaming to a God who did not answer. Jesus paid the price. He became utterly poor. In this total renunciation, Jesus professed what it means to be human. He endured our lot. He came to us where we really were and stood with us, struggling with His whole heart to have us say yes to our innate poverty.”
The other morning, I woke my youngest for school. Often she greets me with arms in the air, reaching up to offer a sweet, tender hug. I love these moments and if I am honest, I wish that every morning was this easy and tender and sweet. But just as often, I am greeted with grumpiness and whining and distress about having to get ready for school. Some mornings, I face this with great patience and maturity. I smugly put my Pledge can in my pocket and think about how redeemed and dust free I am. Until the next day, when my daughter’s grumpiness pushes some dusty button in me, and I act like a six year old and scream and yell and shame and fail. All the while watching myself from a distance, wondering what in the heck happened to the “mature” person who dealt with this same struggle so much better the day before. When I have lovely moments like this, I am often tempted to avoid God and to just walk in the loneliness of my self-condemnation.
God wants us to put the Pledge can away. No matter what I do, I cannot change the fact that I am dust. Why has it taken me so long to just realize that He came, died on the cross and rose again for this very reason? He took my place.
At the end of each chapter in Souvenirs of Solitude, Brennan Manning shares a prayer written by Sue Garmon. I love this one and hope it encourages you as much as it encourages me.
“Lord, I think maybe you’re getting me accustomed to the idea that I’m not an archangel. Of course, you know I’m not and I know I’m not. But I must admit that periodically I try to behave as though I were. And most of my problems seem to stem directly from that fact.
I’d like to think I’m perfect: with no limitations, impure motives, human weaknesses; everything under control and all together. And every time I catch myself thinking and behaving that way life becomes not just burdensome but horrendous.
Lord, thank you for letting me know that I’m not perfect yet but that you’ll get me there if I let you. Thank you for reminding me that I’ll never have it all together until we meet face to face.
Lord, do archangels need you as much as I do?
Father, thank you for setting me free. Free to be poor, little, weak. Thank you for setting me free. Free to be misunderstood, rejected, forgotten.
Thank you for setting me free. Free to be unsatisfied, empty, stripped.
Thank you for setting me free. Free to break through, let go, enter the flame.
Father, thank you for setting me free by binding me more closely to yourself.”