I love this reflection from Ginny - so grateful for our thoughtful, poetic community!
We open the Lenten season with the reminder
“you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
I confess I have a complicated relationship with these words. In some moments I find them liberating. Remembering I am finite and weak can be a welcome message, especially on the days I’ve failed or just run out of strength for the task at hand. There are days the struggle and pain of life is immense, so knowing we will not always be bound by these mortal bodies feels like good news.
But there are also days that this phrase conjures feelings of worthlessness. You see, I received teaching in my childhood that made me believe I was trash. A broken body moving through a dying world, unable to create beauty or feel anything good or worthy. That is a longer story. Suffice to say, sometimes these words put me back in that frame of mind, introducing despair.
So, this Lent I’ve given these words an update in my reflections: “Remember that you are stardust, and to stardust you shall return.”
Now before you think this is about fairies and Disney magic, let me explain. There are compelling new studies coming out of astronomy, and especially cosmology, that suggest the major building blocks of life (carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, etc.) are produced in the burning core of stars and are dispersed into the galaxy at their deaths – an event called “going supernova”. Like the death and subsequent decay of a tree or animal in nature that returns basic elements to the earth – so dying stars give us the materials of life at a galactic level. There is good reason to believe that all the elements in our flora and fauna - the ones we must consume to carry on life - have passed through one or more stars on their way to us. You quite literally exist due to molecules gifted by the life and death of ancient stars. You are made of stardust.
So how does this change my reflection? Well technically, the dust we are made of is the same as it was before. Basic elements found on Earth. But what if this dust (or dirt) is not base and worthless, as we’ve been so quick to assume when we hear the words? What if this dust, our dust, pours from the beating heart of the universe, enlivened and set ablaze by the Spirit? This dust, propelled on its journey to you by the death throes of Supernovas, is not very ordinary. Neither is our universe.
In this light, I hear Psalm 19 in a new way:
“The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard. Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world.” (NLT)
The stars proclaim God’s craftsmanship across the universe and in me. My cells sing a wordless message of praise to the infinite Maker, who weaves everything together, on and on into eternity. While our time living with this stardust is limited, in this moment we are connected by it to all of creation - past, present and future. I don't want to forget that though my body is temporal, it is made of and will give back something very like the eternal.
So, Friend, remember you are stardust. To stardust you shall return. And isn't that worthy and beautiful?