– by Andy Wade –
Peanuts circa 1954, Pig-Pen enters the comic strip in a cloud of dust. We don’t know his real name… “I haven’t got a name… people just call me things.” As the dust rises around him, Pig-Pen proudly announces he’s surrounded by the dust of ancient civilizations. He is as perceptive as he is dirty.
Like Pig-Pen engulfed in a cloud of dust, I can’t seem to shake off the dust of Ash Wednesday. Enveloped in a cloud of dust, I’m forced to join him confessing, “You know what I am? I’m a dust magnet!”
Like the ancients, I am also surrounded by another cloud, a “great cloud of witnesses”. And like them, and like Pig-Pen’s seemingly ever-present dust-cloud, I must “lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely.” (Hebrews 12:1-3)
I am a “dust magnet”. I am, we are, Pig-Pen.
Surrounded by this amazing cloud of witnesses, witnesses who share in our humanity, our brokenness, “and the sin that clings so closely”, Pig-Pen reminds me how closely related to the earth we are.
…then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Genesis 2:7-9
I’m etched into the story as I embrace the earth from which I’m formed. I am not God. And yet I’m fashioned in God’s image, the image of the Creator. These realities must be kept in tension. And it’s this tension that grounds us as we walk into the purposes of God. As Christine Sine reminds us, “it’s only in the place of deep contemplation that we often find the resources we need to really be activists.” So I embrace the dust that I am even as I breathe in the breath of God.
And what of this dust from which I am formed? Gazing into the beauty of creation, the imagination of God unleashed dazzles the senses. Yet like this Spirit-infused-dust, the God-painted creation is no longer what it was meant to be. We share the touch of God. We share also the brokenness brought on by humankind’s desire to usurp the place of God.
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. Romans 8:19-23
It is out of these thoughts that this poem was born. It is also out of this contemplation that I wait, watch, anticipate the next steps in the unfolding imagination of God.
and to dust you shall return
marked with ash of repentance
dust of mourning
confronted with our mortality
an urn filled with ash
scattered over water, earth
for the full redemption
of this dust
infused with the breath of God