Notes from the dust

The Lord is merciful and gracious,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always accuse,
    nor will he keep his anger forever.
10 He does not deal with us according to our sins,
    nor repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as the heavens are high above the earth,
    so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far he removes our transgressions from us.
13 As a father has compassion for his children,
    so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him.
14 For he knows how we were made;
    he remembers that we are dust. (Psalm 103:8-14)

After the Storm, Ocean City by Bob Fisher

Many people I know envision an angry, accusing God. Some of us, myself included, carry accusing voices in our heads sometimes, and it can be hard to turn off the chatter and hear the loving God who speaks in the stillness. (In fact, it can be hard to find moments of stillness to even listen to God!)

This psalm reminds us of two of God's most wonderful attributes -- grace and compassion. 

Our culture and economy is built on the idea that what we put in is what we get out, that we get what we deserve. Yet grace, most poignantly displayed in the life and mercy of Jesus, turns those assumptions upside down. Jesus the Christ got more than he deserved -- he got what we all deserve -- so that we could see the loving, compassionate side of God. Grace reminds us that God operates in ways that are higher than we know.

Bono puts it well in the U2 song, "Grace":
What once was hurt 
What once was friction 
What left a mark 
No longer stings 
Because grace makes beauty 
Out of ugly things
But it takes being in a relationship with a living God to receive this message amid all the external (and sometimes internal) blame and shame.

Many people will often give more grace to others than they give themselves. We all screw up from time to time and we need to look honestly at ourselves, but we can grow further by starting with grace. 

Many struggle often with the internal blame game, the voices of judgment and failure that remind us how far we fall short. As my spiritual director reminds me, that voice is not the voice of God. The One who separates us decisively from our failures and transgressions, who remembers that we are but dust, turns to us with steadfast love and a parent's compassion.

From down here in the dust, that seems like an offer too good to refuse!