“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”
I had read the verse before. Numerous times. But this time, it jumped out at me in a whole new light. God creating a living soul from the dust of the earth and breathing life into him? This is actually incredible. No one else could do that. Yet we talk of this miracle almost as if it was just another day in the life of Adam. But it wasn’t just another day. It was THE day. The first day, actually. In fact, it was the very first day for human life to set foot on the earth that God had created. Just think of all that has taken place with humanity since then.
Do you think creating people after His own image and likeness was an afterthought? Do you think He had a weak moment when He created us, not fully realizing how much chaos and disaster we could actually cause? Those are rhetorical questions, folks. No, and no. When I was reading that passage in Genesis, I was guilty of skimming through, half of my brain focusing on what I was reading, and the other half telling me in a grating voice how many times I’ve heard this passage. Then I came to that verse about God creating man from the dust of the earth and breathing life into his soul and it made me stop and exhale. Life, my friends. For what?
It brought to mind a line from a poem that captured my attention: dust thou art, to dust returnest. What did it really mean?
I thought it fitting to include on here: the whole piece of poetic art, with the title fitting right in:
A Psalm of Life
Tell me not, in mournful numbers
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.
Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.
Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each tomorrow
Find us farther than today.
Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.
In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!
Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act- act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!
–Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Now, if you’re looking at me cross-eyed because I brought poetry into all of this, and also because you have no clue what bivouac means, relax and hang tight.
First of all, I know that poetry is not even close to being appreciated as much as it was years ago, and I think it’s sad. We’re missing so much. We start whimpering as soon as we don’t know what an odd word or phrase means, and then set it aside to check the feeds for the gazillionth time and painstakingly read paragraphs of hashtags in which the words don’t even have spaces between them and the only punctuation is a flood of “pound signs” all over the place. Are we really that much more brilliant than the people of the “Poetic Age”? Okay, end of rant about hashtags from a person who uses hashtags.
Secondly, I had no idea what bivouac meant either, so I looked it up. And this is the beauty of finding the deeper meaning behind certain words or phrases.
a temporary camp without tents or cover, used especially by soldiers or mountaineers.
Look back and see how the word is used. It makes sense, doesn’t it? It helps us create a vivid mind picture. Life is like that. Often we feel vulnerable, exposed to the elements., lacking complete security. There’s a lot of risks to be taken, and chances for mistakes. Yet here we are, called to something higher from the most High God.
The “dust thou art, to dust returnest” comes from Ecclesiastes 3:20: “All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.”
Think about it, my friends. It can start to sound like our lives and our efforts are worthless. As if all that’s done is undone once again in the end. The truth of this depends solely on what we are investing in. If it’s all earthly, then the harsh reality is that yes, it is all completely in vain. It’s a sobering thought.
How is it that the temporary things of this earth can so soon appear to be the most important and the most urgent? I’m asking because I know from experience how quickly and frequently we can find ourselves there.
I don’t have answers, but I have questions. God breathed life into our souls for a reason. It wasn’t His intent for us to just float along through life aimlessly.
Can we grasp the fact that God actually chose us as weak, imperfect, disastrous, sinful human beings to carry out His perfect calling?
I can’t. It’s nothing short of a miracle. At the same time, it can be so overwhelming. Where do we start? What are we to do? There’s a lot of unknowns, and our strength fails us. But who are we kidding? We could never have existed without God in the picture. So what makes us think we can now?
So we tell our fearful beating hearts to believe with all our strength that with God all things are possible, and that’s really all the strength we need.
Wanna know something? Your faith is going to move mountains. And that, my friend, will not go to nothing.
P.S. Go read Ecclesiastes 3 (with both halves of your brain). No matter how many times you’ve heard it before, I promise you will be blessed.