Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Dust We Go

Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, ‘So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial;* the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.’  Matthew 26: 40-41

Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” – Ferris Bueller

“Nathan… Dust you came, dust you go.” 

When anything needed tending to in our little church, Johnny Williamson tended to it.  He wore every hat there was to wear at our church, and he was the consummate good sport about it.  He was a giant of a man in my life and in the life of my church and community. 
Several years ago on Ash Wednesday, the preacher was out, and Johnny naturally volunteered to do the service. 

The formal liturgy for imposing ashes was, “Out of dust you came, and to dust you shall return.”  But as Johnny rubbed my forehead with ash, he said in his distinctly easy way, “Nathan… Dust you came, dust you go.”    
My wondering into Lent every year starts with that memory – dust you came, dust you go.  As someone who has struggled to understand the meaning of this season, I trust that’s probably enough for me to know about it. 

This has been a hard Lent for many people I know.  The tragic deaths of a pastor, husband and father in a church close by and the death of an 8 year old child in my own little community weigh heavy.  I think about them, and then I think about a pastor called by parents to the hospital on Ash Wednesday to administer ashes not only to them, but to their newborn, perfectly healthy child, only hours old.  What courage.   
Two thoughts in tension have been with me lately (though I have no idea who said them):  The first is, “The meaning of life is that it ends,” and the second, “The meaning of life is that it goes on.”  When we think about it, both are true.  Each life comes to an earthly end, and yet there are always those left behind to grieve and learn how to go on. 

Somewhere between these two meanings is another that maybe Lent invites us to – the meaning of life is that it is happening now.  As Ferris Bueller reminds us, “Life moves pretty fast.  If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” 

Halfway through Lent is a good time to reflect on this.  If you’ve given up or taken on something for Lent, the newness of the task has worn off and now it’s just hard work grinding to the end (if you haven't abandoned it already).  Of course, it’s not just a Lenten vow most of us are grinding through right now – careers, relationships, commitments, church, spirituality, life.    
But take a look outside.  Spring is springing.  Grass is growing, animals are moving (heck, people are moving), the sun is thawing out the grind of winter.  Life is happening.  Maybe spring is also telling us to “Stay awake…The spirit is indeed willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Thank God that Jesus chose disciples just like us, grinding their way through life and ministry, half awake and missing the point.  Jesus is in agony, wrestling with soon laying down his life, and his friends keep dozing off on him. 
“The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  This is us to, isn’t it?

“I’ll watch you do a flip son, just let me send this one last email…I should really call her and check on her, I’ll do it first thing tomorrow…I ought to…One day I’m going to…I would love to, but I’ve got a million things to do…I'll take off and spend a few days with them as soon as ...Someday, when I don’t have deadlines and stress, I’m going to…”
Zig Ziglar says motivation is like bathing:  sure it works the first time, but you’ve got to do it again and again to keep its effectiveness.  Births and death, love and loss, these force us to reflect on the wonder and frailty of life.  Yet it’s in the mundane existence of the everyday that the big and holy work of living a life is accomplished.  So here’s one more little reminder for today, and a challenge to keep looking for reminders of it tomorrow and on and on:

Life moves pretty fast. 

Stay awake. 

Miracles and heartache are all around you. 

Attend your own life.  

Enjoy the ride. 

Dust you came, dust you go. 

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