Dust and Breath

Ash Wednesday

‘Dust and Breath’

“The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life”

Job 33:4


There was a silence when we began. The quiet rise and fall of lungs filling with air, the whispered hush of a breath drawn in and a breath exhaled.

We didn’t begin with a loud bang. We didn’t begin with a “Let there be- and it was so”. We didn’t begin with words at all. 

We began with mud.

And breath.

And the intentional heart of God.

Spoken words created everything else in all of creation, but with us, God stood speechless and reached down into mud. He found no words to describe us into being. Just His touch. Personal. Just His breath. Close.

As close as He intended to stay. With us. 

God with us. That was always His plan. The love of us. Our love of Him. Close.


When God formed the first human beings into humanity He knelt down into the grit of things and let the cool clay clump between His fingers and cake on His palms. When He created humankind, He got grit under His fingernails and dust around His wrists. His hands got dirty. And He worked. Putting His all into us.

When God’s love lead Him to spill Himself over into mud, to pour His life, His Breath into the mud of us, it got messy. And it would get messier. 

And into that mess He poured out His grace. The grace of Him. We alone in creation began with grace. Grace that was formed for us before we were formed. Grace came first for us. It always has. Even before our breath. 

‘He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.’ 2 Timothy 1:9

Grace. Such a small word. So easy to forget.

Every year on Ash Wednesday in many corners of Christendom people receive ashen crosses on their foreheads with words whispered low “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”.






I don’t think we have trouble remembering we are dust, we humans. Our biggest challenge is recognising that we are more; more than dust, more than mud, more than dirt trod under life’s heels. More. 

Dust- our matter, was incidental in our beginnings. It’s not the dust in this story that matters. It’s Who leant low to touch it…

“Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground ..” Genesis 2:4-7

The author of Genesis thought we needed to hear this, know this, somewhere deep within our souls… ‘Then the Lord God formed’…Us! The writer of this story wanted us to hear…to know that no other living being was formed this way, only us. 

We were formed differently, to be different. 

We were formed intimately, to be close.