Why do they call them dust bunnies?

My son came home from school one day and grabbed the dust pan and broom. I had wondered if this boy who rarely jumps into chores without my prompting had suddenly become responsible and independent during the course of the school day.  As I was getting ready to sit down and congratulate myself for training him right, I heard him say, “Got it!” With that declaration, he grabbed a Ziploc bag from his pocket and carefully poured in the dust bunnies he had collected from under our couch. 

ash-wednesday

By the expression on my face, he could see that I was quite confused. “It’s for science,” he said. “We are studying what kind of stuff makes up dust. We’re dissecting it!”

I didn’t know if I should be proud or offended that he knew just where to find these suspicious little dust-globs.  I thought that I’d been successful at keeping those little buggers hidden. When it was time to host a party or even just a friend or two, I would take great pains to go through the house collecting and eliminating these pesky little reminders that people actually live in my home. I much prefer creating the impression that my family so squeaky clean and happy that even the dust bunnies don’t gather here. 

But my son knew better. He knew just where to find the shady characters. And now, he was going to dissect the very dirt that can expose me for what I am… a hider, a fake, a person who needed help. By literally sweeping the dust under the rug, my house appeared clean and free from people who might want to dissect it.

Dust is not something we want on display. It’s not something we proudly hold up as a prize to be earned. Rather, dust is unwanted, something to hide. Dust is, well… dirty.

Sometimes I clean up my life the same way I clean up my house. I polish, sweep, and scrub away anything that might give the impression that I am somehow less than. I sweep some things under the rug like failures, mistakes, and shame. My “dust” could be the argument I had with my brother, the anger that sometimes takes over, or the regret that still plagues me from my childhood.  Polish up. Sweep away. Buff and shine. Yes, I clean up quite well.

But on Ash Wednesday, we enter into that sanctuary buffed and shined only to kneel before the altar and receive the sign of the cross with the dust of the earth. We allow ourselves, our whole selves, to be seen. We put it all out there. We walk back down that aisle exposed for who we really are. And we see the dust on others too. 

In that dusty cross placed on our foreheads, we are reminded where we came from. We are reminded that we were once just dust, but in the hands of our creator, we became something beautiful. We became sons and daughters. And even in our dirty, broken state, we are still deeply loved. And because of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf, we are clean.

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in
Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1)

Dust is a public testimony to who we really are—broken people in need of a Savior. The dust removes the façade that Christians are somehow cleaner or brighter or better than others.  Rather, the ash on our foreheads reminds us that from dust we first came and to dust we will return.  There is a richness in that dirt… a transparency to our condition. The dust levels the playing field and points instead to Christ.

So this Lenten season, consider gathering those dust bunnies in a Ziploc bag, not to dissect but to acknowledge that even dust can be beautiful when touched by the hand of God who loves us. 

*Lent begins this Wednesday, February 14th

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