So, here at this beginning of Lent, let me be honest. I struggle with thankfulness. I appreciate, at least conceptually, the work that others do on my behalf and the sacrifices that others make for me, but I often struggle to be thankful in the way that I think I ought.
This comes from, at least in part, an incipient sense of entitlement. We have all been culturally conditioned, and my experiences have shaped me to believe that I deserve what I have, regardless of how it came to me. How can I be thankful if I deserved it in the first place?
And then I hear, "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return." Said over me. Said over my friends, some older, some younger. Said to the two toddlers who sat near me today at church.
Dust deserves nothing.
That is the Ash Wednesday proclamation. Our entitlement - my entitlement - is bunk. I want to be more thankful, and to get there, I must first realize that I am surviving solely on grace. God's grace in creation and redemption. The grace of others who offer love and support, often at the expense of themselves. The grace of the air that fills my nostrils, the food that fills my belly, the light that enlivens my eyes. It is all grace to this desperately needy pile of dust.
Days like today help me be thankful because my ego takes a hit, and instead I find joy only in the mercy of others. I am thankful that so many people water this dust, that so many others bring nutrients, and that still others tend and care for me that I might, in time, bear a plant that will bear fruit. Not because I deserve it, but because somebody cares about this dust.
So, why relent? Because God won't relent, even if we are only dust, because for some reason, God breathes life into the dirt that we are.