The Wonder of Beloved Dust
About this time last year, I wrote the following words about being installed as Southwood’s senior pastor: “It is such a great joy to get to serve with and share life with people who love you and your family so well, and it is a rare privilege in pastoral ministry to have the opportunity to stay (Lord willing, for many more years) with people you already love so deeply.”
I’m so grateful to be able to look back at those words and realize that they are even more true today than they were then. We love the people of Southwood and Huntsville, and you continue to love us well—far beyond what we deserve. Thank you!
Your love and support is all the more astonishing to me when I consider a regular experience I have had this year: a deep sense of my own inadequacy, my human finitude, and my personal limitations. It’s happened on numerous occasions—while struggling through how to communicate a glimpse of the glories of Christ, while preparing to lead an Officers Retreat, while working through staff transitions, while engaging in a difficult pastoral situation—and I’ve wondered what God was thinking (and what you were thinking!).
It’s been in some of those moments in particular that God has used your praying for me, someone offering unprompted words of encouragement, reflecting on God’s calling in my life, to strengthen my faltering feet and amaze me again at his grace. I’ve seen God do this same type of thing over and over in my life and others—particularly those who, like me, are prideful and self-reliant. He stretches us beyond what we can handle so that we must trust his grace, he exposes our limitations so he can bless beyond what we ask or imagine, he reminds us we are but dust so that he can remind us also of the dignity and value he has breathed into us as an undeserved gift.
These are good realities to stop and consider any time, and God brings them before us with regularity. In particular, this Lenten season leading up to Easter is a great opportunity for reflection. I’d invite you to enter into that this year as we head toward the joyful celebration of Easter because the more you realize your own inadequacy, limitations, and “dustness,” the more you will be startled by a love that is far beyond what you deserve.
That’s why this season in the traditional church calendar begins with Ash Wednesday—March 1 this year. We begin by “repenting in dust and ashes,” remembering our weakness and need. This prepares our hearts to be astonished that our gracious Heavenly Father would send his Son to live and die for the likes of us—and beyond that to offer the hope of glorious resurrected life with him, where those who are made of dust are told they will live now and forever with the same power that produced the first Easter!
Join with us in this journey from the dust to the upper room, to the cross, and then to the empty tomb. If you want help in guiding your heart through this season, there are some great new devotional books in our Guest Center that will help you see even more clearly the astonishing glory of the gospel.
I don’t know exactly what God is using in your life right now to remind you of your utter dependence upon him, but I know he’s committed to doing that. When you get a glimpse of your “dustness,” don’t despair! You are dust that is beloved by the Risen King of Kings—who loves you enough to die for you, who dignifies you enough to call you to labor with him for his kingdom, and who values you enough to want to spend forever with you.