Ever since Ash Wednesday I have been thinking about the dust of it all. My husband and I are not from a liturgical church, but we used what we had - several sticks of frankincense burned into powder then poured into a communion bowl. I watched people line up and my husband bow low to reach the forehead of a young child: From dust you were created and to dust you shall return.
Evan is the happiest morbid person you’ll ever meet. He has stacks of books about death beside his antique, wingback chair. He reminds his congregation every Sunday: One day you will die. And he has written an entire book about watching his first wife suffer from cancer and eventually go to be with the Lord. He has faced utter darkness and survived the night. Sometimes I just look him and marvel.
Death forces us to think about our souls, but it also reminds us that we are embodied. Yes, there is joy and pleasure to be had in these bodies - mangoes and hugs and laughter - but sometimes the heaviness of my own limbs in moments of depression makes me wish I was just a soul, without the weight of this flesh. Maybe then I would be able to float up beyond the temporal pain and remember what is true: that Jesus will one day return to resurrect these bodies.
It’s been a tough week. Thankfully, Evan has two favorite subjects, and death is only one of them. The other is resurrection, and he talks about it so frequently that I have begun to be more patient with this flesh. It does not always do what I want. It doesn’t produce enough serotonin. It grows older without my permission. It aches and rebels and makes me long for the day when it will be glorified. But it will be glorified.
I sit out on my parent’s deck which overlooks Lake County, California. There are blue mountains, purple hills, and rows and rows of green vineyards. I sip my morning coffee and smell the scent of pine. In the wilderness surrounding their house, my parents have cleared the brush so that only the manzanita trees remain with their red bark and twisted limbs. They look like an art installation - stunning and strange. I see, I smell, and soak up the sunlight in this body before heading back to snowy Iowa and the arms of my husband.
I am a body and a soul - sometimes standing strong - other times crumbling like ash from a stick of incense that burns low but bright. As charred frankincense is smeared across my forehead in the shape of a cross, I remember that God knows this. He knows my frame. That I am but dust.
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