We Are Dust

Posted on March 5, 2014 | 14 comments

Ash Wednesday, Carl Spitzweg, 1860

Ash Wednesday, Carl Spitzweg, 1860

By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return. – Genesis 3:19

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season of Lent. The occasion is marked, literally, with ashes on the forehead and the words “you are dust, and to dust you will return.”

It is the very same reminder that God gave to the man and the woman in the garden after their disobedience. They chose to break communion with their Creator and instead followed the allure of being like God.

But they weren’t like God, a fact they were deceived into forgetting; the man and woman were a part of the creation. Above every other created thing, yet less than God.

So, rather than the deathless existence for which they were intended, God made their life a fight against the ground that would provide their food, a reminder of the dust to which they would now return.

Just like the first man and woman, we break the communion with God that the death and resurrection of Christ enables, and attempt to pursue wholeness apart from our Creator.

We get deceived that this is possible, and attempt to grasp onto a semblance of value the identity we create provides.

We do what is right in our own eyes. Selfishly. Rebelliously.

The ashes on our foreheads today remind us that it is not our eyes that determine what is right.

We are not God. It is appointed that all men and women will return to dust.

As much as we want to control our own bodies, circumstances, and destinies, authority does not lay within us, but in the hands of a loving heavenly Father.

During the 40 days of lent, we tend to give something up. The intent is self-examination, and letting go of what the false self is grasping onto for security, control or affirmation. (see a previous post on Lent)

Rather than this sacrifice being something we boast in (I gave up chocolate for 40 whole days!) or providing proof of our righteousness, it is a season of remembering that our entire life is to be surrendered to God in Jesus Christ.

We are dust, and to dust we will return.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Tags:   | | |


  1. One of the most depressing books in the Bible is the book of Judges. And each one did what was right in his own eyes.

    I’m here from the Spiritual Sundays link up!

  2. This is a great reminder of the significance of the ashes we wore on our heads last week. More than just a way of proclaiming a tribal identity, hey! look at me! I’m Catholic! (although that can be good too), the ashes remind us, and all who see us, that we are on our deathbeds. Memento mori!

  3. Thanks for linking up with us at the Four Seasons Blog Hop~ Lynn @ Turnips 2 Tangerines

  4. This is beautiful and insightful, as well as instructive. Thank you!

  5. It is humbling to remember from where we came…dust! But I am always amazed how much God loves us…we who are made of dust, in the image of our Father. “For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust!” Psalm 103:14
    I enjoyed reading your post.
    Charlotte Gail

  6. Really good lessons about humility here. Thanks for sharing at Essential Fridays.
    Mel from Essential Thing Devotions

  7. Thank you for sharing your thoughts here at “Tell Me a Story,” on Ash Wednesday and reminding us that we are but dust and to dust we shall return.

  8. Not being raised in the Lenten tradition, I did not know that the ashes symbolized “dust” as in “dust to dust,” Scott. I always thought it had to do with ashes and sackcloth–a time of mourning. So this makes much more sense to me why something is “given up.” Since our life here on earth is futile without sacrificing for our God and making Him our number one priority. Even though I’ve not been raised with this tradition, I often choose something to give up each year. And this year I’m giving up ruminating on the complaints I have of others–especially who I feel “offended by.” It’s been tough and a bit harder to recognize than my hand reaching for chocolate. 🙂 But all the more reason to nip that idolatrous practice in the bud! Thanks so much for your weekly inspiration, my friend!

    • While it is not necessarily a season of mourning, it is a somber time. Spent reflecting on the ways we have dismissed God from our lives – as the first man and woman did – but also living in the expectancy of Easter and hope coming to all men.

      It is an interesting historical note that I’ve come to learn – while our culture likes to celebrate before a holiday, i.e. we spend the month before Christmas at parties and shopping, etc., the Hebrews and then the Church spent the lead up to a holiday fasting, reflecting, meditating in preparation. Then, the holiday and days of feasting and gathering happened afterward. That is part of the historical pattern of seasons like lent and advent.

      What I like about this is – in our experience the holiday is a let down, right? Think of the day after Christmas. But historically, the day after the holiday would have been a day of rejoicing and celebrating. Quite a different mood.

      As always Beth, I’m so glad you are part of this site.

      • This is a different but interesting way of looking at it, one I haven’t taken time to think about. Thanks 🙂

  9. I too never participated in Lent, so i love reading about it and its orientation. Its a real reminder that we are simply dust and shall return to dust..we’re here for only a short time.

  10. This is a really nice reminder for us and a great explanation. I think not bragging about what we give up also goes hand in hand with not tooting our own horn when we offer service to others. It’s all about being humble and accepting the gifts that God gives us every day and through out time. Thank you for linking up to Tips and Tricks.

  11. Thanks so much for sharing this post at the Say G’Day Saturday linky party.

    Hope to see you again this weekend!

    Best wishes,
    Natasha in Oz

  12. Thanks for sharing on Whatever Wednesday on Thank You Honey! Hope to see you again this week!

Leave a Reply to Kirra Antrobus Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *