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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Clinging to Dust

The movies, sports, TV shows and entertainment pastimes I enjoy today can be evaluated as to their importance by comparing them with those I enjoyed 10 years ago, or 20. Can I even remember what I watched, sat through or read back then? How much that was really useful have I retained from any of it, and how much of it would I revisit if I could? Did I learn any lessons worth hanging onto from any of it? One or two, I would like to hope.

But most of it was dust.

No Uneasiness About It

Does your soul ever cling to the dust?

The expression is a Hebrew archaism that Matthew Henry explains like this:
“While the souls of the children of this world cleave to the dust of the earth as their portion, and have no uneasiness about it, the children of light often are greatly burdened because of the remains of carnal affections in their hearts.”
I think that puts it rather well. Those for whom this world is home and this life the be-all and end-all have no uneasiness about their attachment to the things that are passing away and will soon be forgotten. But you and I should.

The psalmist, like the Lord, suggests that an awareness of inadequacy and spiritual poverty must precede any real appreciation of the word of God.

Awareness of Spiritual Poverty

He finds himself in a bad way, looking for a solution:
“My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word!”
(Psalm 119:25-27)
Since the reference comes in a psalm, I think we can safely say it’s a believer we’re talking about whose “soul clings to the dust”. I can certainly relate to the natural tendency to have way, way too much affection for things that are ultimately not only inadequate sources of satisfaction, but are also horribly temporary.

To things that are a bit on the “dusty” side.

Obeying the Second Law

The stuff I buy to decorate or furnish the house or to park in the driveway; most of it necessary, or at least it appears that way at the time. I hope I don’t get too attached to it. It all falls apart pretty quickly, doesn’t it. It spends its brief existence futilely fighting the forces of gravity, time, weather and the Second Law of Thermodynamics; then it is no more and is replaced or forgotten.

All dust.

The job that pays the bills today may well be gone tomorrow. I am a useful part in a corporate machine, but I could easily be replaced by this Friday. The machinery would grind on inexorably without missing a beat. The co-workers who greet me with apparent affection and deference today will play the same political games with their next supervisor. The awards I got for this, that or the other thing; the jobs that I worked insane hours to produce for clients who were temporarily grateful but never even knew my name; the appreciation of people who are now dead or who have forgotten me entirely; the bonuses, the salary increases, the promotions … five minutes after I retire, even I will have forgotten it all.

Dust, the bunch of it. But my soul can so easily cling to it.

The Word and Life

“Give me life according to your word!” the Psalmist cries out. Now there’s something that is not dust; that is not useless, falling apart, unappreciated, forgotten, disappointing or futile.

There’s something that lasts. Something that refreshes my heart more in my fifties than it did in my teens; that seems truer now than when I first read it, and the truth of which comes home to me with everything I observe and every experience I go through.

Something better than money, because the word of God does not depend on an arbitrary value assigned by economic and circumstantial forces outside my control, and which even those in charge of setting interest rates, borrowing billions or running the economy don’t really understand.

Something better than political philosophy, because the word of God reflects the world as it is, not as we’d like it to be if only we could change things we can’t.

Something better than relationships, because the word of God teaches me how and why to have and to maintain meaningful relationships in the first place.

Something better, in fact, than just about anything in this world.

But awfully easy to forget our constant need for it.

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