If I say the word dust, many would think thoughts of dirt. We don’t like dust. It’s a pain to clean and it’s everywhere.
Dust: fine, dry powder consisting of tiny particles of earth or waste matter lying on the ground or on surfaces or carried in the air.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about dust: what it symbolizes, what it means, and how I can put it in the context of life. I’m sure we’ve all heard the phrase “dust to dust, ashes to ashes.” If I’m looking at the bible, there’s so many instances where it talks about us coming from dust and to dust we sha’ll return.
“By the sweat of your brow you will have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made. For you were made from dust, and to dust you will return.” Genesis 3:19
Yes, we start as dust. We also end as dust. But I haven’t been thinking of the beginning or the end, I’ve been thinking about the in between: The instances of dust in our lives where we think so many thoughts of failure. “I’m not good enough.” “I’ve messed up in a big way.” “No one loves me.” Most of these thoughts come after we think we’ve blown it for our lives. I’m here to say, you haven’t and we, as humans aren’t that powerful because we are not the authors of life, God is.
I spend a lot of my time around dust these days. Every community I’ve been in Africa has some form of dust. Whether it’s the sand dunes, the dusty roads in remote villages, or the busy streets of a township, I walk on dust daily. When I think about dust, it definitely is a beginning and an end, but from the ends there can be beginnings. It’s not just a symbol for the end of life, but dust is a symbol of the grace we get to live over and over again.
When I am walking in communities, on the dirt and dusty roads, I’m constantly reminded of the grace over my life. I’m reminded that God took my life from dust and made it something to live for Him. I’ve had many experiences with dust. From an early age, I can remember playing soccer on many different pitches, some with grass but many with dust. This symbolized a time of following a passion to lead me on a path God wanted me to be without me knowing it was Him. Then, soccer came to a screeching halt as I ended my career after two ACL injuries. It was then, that I thought I would never be remade from dust and I took it to myself to numb the pain of my identity in soccer not in Christ. All the while, God was still taking the dust I thought I was in and shaping me.
Dust isn’t pretty. Lots of times, it’s stepped on and trampled over. No one gives a second thought to dust. And, after those surgeries that’s how I felt. But sometimes with dust, it only gets stepped on more times. A few years after my second surgery, I got arrested for a second time for drinking and driving because I was numbing the pain I was in from the past, the present, and mourning because I thought I had no future. I thought dust was where I would end. Little did I know, it was where God was beginning my redemption.
I think that’s where we find ourselves a lot of the time. I was there, where Job was when I was arrested. I thought God had forgotten about me.
“He has thrown me in the mud. I’m nothing more than dust to ashes.” Job 30:19
Little did I know that from the ashes I was in that I had made for myself through sin and others sin, God would remake ashes. We all know how the story of Job ends. He suffers but God restores His health, His fortune, and His family with more than He had before. He still went through hard times, but even AFTER he thought he was nothing more than ashes, God restored.
And that’s when I think about the redemption that dust offers. My next experience with dust happened in Africa. The place I now call home. The place that has made me see God’s love, God’s grace, and God’s kindness more than I’ve ever seen. The place where I’ve seen so much redemption. The place where I get to tell people about His goodness daily, and not just say it but be living proof that God creates something out of nothing.
In the desert of Africa and in the townships I was in, I experienced a redeeming type of dust daily. After a full day of giving everything I had, crying out to God to take away pain of the past, and let me live free in Him, I would come home with dusty feet. These dusty feet didn’t just symbolize a full day, but it was one foot in front of the other of seeing God’s grace on my life. By living for Him, I was given my life back. I was brought from dust to life.
“You make beautiful things, You make beautiful things out of dust.” – Gungor
One of my favorite songs says it best. He makes beautiful things out of dust. Dust isn’t the end. It symbolizes the beginning. And that’s where I’ve found myself these last few years. God has restored things in my life I never thought possible. He’s restored my health. He’s restored my hope. He’s restored family. He’s restored friends. Most importantly, He’s restored my joy. And He’s not done yet. God is constantly using dust to restore us. He used His son who was in a grave full of dust yet He rose again to allow us to live. And He’s coming again!
"He raises the poor from the dust, He lifts the needy from the ash heap To make them sit with nobles, And inherit a seat of honor; For the pillars of the earth are the LORD'S, And He set the world on them.” 1 Samuel 2: 8
This is hope. This is the hope we need to live in. That dust isn’t our end spot. Not in this life, or in eternity. When Jesus is your Lord and Savior, you don’t have to be afraid of dust. This doesn’t mean that the past still doesn’t come up, or that there isn’t hurt, it just means that when we reach the point where we think we are dust, we can know God is making something beautiful. If we just hold onto Him, we can be remade. We can experience grace. We can see love. We can be love. God if you’re not done working, I’m not done waiting. Let this always be the stance we stand in.