We’re dust and a heartbeat

(or the comfort of acknowledging weakness)

It was the perfect night to get nothing done. For half an hour, my desk lamp gave a less-than-convincing vote of confidence for the textbook beneath its glow. By the time I re-read the same ribbon of text three times, I gave it up: snapped the book, clicked the lamp, zipped my jacket, and chased my footsteps down the hall.

There’s something about pitch-black, 11 pm, chillier-than-expected night walks that makes me keenly aware of my smallness in the world. Bathed in blackness, every sound, every smell, every brush of a tree branch or bead of dew gains a whole new closeness.

That night I found a crater in a field; I lay down so the curve of the earth fit the small of my back, and listened.

There was the rustle of two trees, an airplane streaking by, laughter leaking from an open window… But then, the strong startling beat of my heart. Red pulse drumming from my chest to my spiral printed fingertips. One throb at a time, 25 words caught my tongue:

To lie beneath the sky, nothing but the rhythm of my pulse separating me from the dust I came from – yes, how small I am.

This moment came two weeks before I dropped out of college because my health crashed. Two weeks before I flew away from a community that made my heart leap. Two weeks before I got a formal introduction to loss, grief, and weakness beyond anything I have ever experienced.

Yet somehow, in all the unwanted things that came, I had an unflinching sense of peace. Why? Some of the answer lies in this sacred truth:

For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.

Psalm 103:14

One of the best things about chronic illness is that it makes this otherwise painfully humbling verse read like comfort. There is comfort to be found in the blunt truth that we humans are (even at our very best) weak.

This is comfort: we don’t have to fear the failings of our bodies: He knows how weak we are; He remembers we are dust.

He knows. He remembers. But more than that, He loves. Just see how that Psalm continues:

“But the love of the Lord remains forever for those who fear him.”

Psalm 103:17

Did you catch that? We should fear Him, not our weakness. We should let God be worth more of our thought than our own fragility. After all, weakness makes room for perfect love.


Do you fear personal weakness more than God?

Who can you confess this fear to?

How does your weakness make room for love?


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