“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
Every year as Lent draws near, people ask, “What are you going to give up for Lent?” I usually respond with chocolate, caffeine, or some of the hours I spend on social media. I might comment that I’m adding in a spiritual discipline, too, like praying more often throughout the day or spending more time reading the Bible.
This year, however, my previous fasts and add-ons don’t feel quite right. It’s not that giving up chocolate, caffeine, or time online aren’t helpful. It’s not that any of the spiritual discipline add-ons are bad either. My struggle is that I’ve discovered a tendency within myself to make myself busy—often with very good things—in a way that leaves me depleted and worn out. Lent has been no exception.
“…busyness has a way of cluttering my mind and heart and making it more difficult for me to listen for God.”
So, instead of a more traditional fast, I am giving up busyness for Lent this year. For the next six weeks, I am examining the reasons I turn to busyness and make my life so noisy I can hardly hear God. Sometimes busyness is the byproduct of very good desires, like the desire to be independent, and other times, it is a coping mechanism to help me hide from my insecurities. But, regardless of the reason, busyness has a way of cluttering my mind and heart and making it more difficult for me to listen for God.
I am beginning this journey on Ash Wednesday, the day when many Christians pause to remember our mortality. On Ash Wednesday, I will receive a cross of ashes on my foreheads and hear someone (most likely my husband with whom I co-pastor) say to me, “Remember, you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” In this holy moment, all pretenses disappear. The facade falls away. And my dust hangs out in plain view.
My busyness is often a way of avoiding my dust. If I keep busy, I won’t die. If I do just one more thing, I won’t have to say no, set a boundary, or acknowledge my limits. But the busyness doesn’t change my mortality—it merely helps me to ignore it for a moment. It also keeps me from opening myself up and receiving what God is giving to me each moment.
“It’s tempting to apologize for our dust, but the construction is what reveals the truth and makes possible the beautiful things God has for us.”
Three years ago during Holy Week, my church experienced a flood. The flood destroyed walls and carpeting. Not long after the flood, we experienced a catastrophic hail storm, and months later, everything shut down because of COVID. Now, almost three years later, we are finally fixing the damage from the flood. We are stripping away old carpet and drywall so we can see what is really there.
It’s tempting to apologize for our dust, but the construction is what reveals the truth and makes possible the beautiful things God has for us.
For Lent (and hopefully for always), I’m setting down my dust rag. I’m a dusty, imperfect human—a dusty, imperfect human created in God’s image and desperately in need of grace.
Prayer: O Lord, help me not to use busyness to shield myself from my dust, my humanity. Give me the courage to accept my limits and to find wholeness in you. Amen.