The Dust of Grace

tree-of-life

“…there are two ways through life, the way of Nature and the way of Grace. You have to choose which one you’ll follow.
― Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life

There are two common roads. The road of despair and the road of presumption. One of self-defeat, the other of self-exertion. Both roads have quite different terrains but both lead in the same direction.

This season of Lent is a strange gift of exposure. In a world of a great divide of pessimists and optimists, of the despairing and determined, our clutch for control remains.

Humanity’s pursuit for self-defined worth and self-determined meaning is a noble but ultimately futile attempt at preserving control. And the ways in which we live in functional despair are the shadow side of this. Met with failure or disappointment, resigning to life’s hardship is simply another way in which we attempt to manage. If we can’t have things our way, at least we can give up on our own terms.

But both paths are opposite the way of grace.

The road of humility is a road covered in the dust of grace. It’s a reminder that we are from dust and to dust we shall return, and a reminder that life is fundamentally a gift.

This path is a tremendously difficult one as it asks us to pause before we go onward. To receive requires empty-handedness and a confession that we ultimately have nothing to offer. It requires us to kneel on whatever path we are on to confess we are lost and that we don’t have it in us to get wherever there is. And in that confession we sit in the dust of grace.

In the dust, we see our humanity, our sin, and our lack of control, but in the dust we are made receptive to grace.

This path of grace is strange. It isn’t one we pave ourselves but has rather been paved down to us. And so we are invited to follow in the way of Jesus who has met us in the dust, sustains us in love, and (as Bonhoeffer once said) bids us come and die.