Thursday, July 19, 2007

From Dust to Dust

I was hurriedly running an errand when my phone began to buzz. Grabbed it and saw a text message from my youngest son with these cryptic words: “I am safe from the fire. No worries.” Now THOSE are words intended to calm a mother’s heart! Right. Heart rate probably reached 200 in those few seconds.

I stopped the car, tried to phone him and couldn’t get through. A few minutes later, he reached me and said, “We think there was an explosion in our building. I raced down 30 floors of my building and there is smoke everywhere. Check the news and you’ll find out more. I’m walking 40 blocks home—subway system is shut down. Phones barely working—probably can’t get through again for a while. Don’t worry: we’re all safe.” “All” in this case, meaning he, his two brothers, my two daughters-in-law, and my two grandchildren, all of whom live and work in Manhattan.

Well, I checked the local news in the car, and heard nothing about some sort of terrorist attack in NYC, so I figured it must not be too bad. Got home and discovered that there had been an underground transformer explosion on the corner where my son worked and it was so massive that it shook the buildings nearby. However, I was intrigued to notice that the Australian News Service reported that a building had crumbled to dust! Fortunately, they were seriously overstating the case.

But there was dust everywhere. Photos showed it billowing out of the ground. And all this forcefully reminded me again that we as humans are but dust ourselves. In the grand scheme of things, our lives are so very, very short. In the Bible, we are compared to grass, growing one day and thrown into the fire the next. Poof. All gone, disappeared, mostly not remembered.

I am one of those with the more melancholy temperament who is prone to ask, “Why are we here? For what purpose do we exist?” Some, of course, have concluded that there is no real meaning to life. If that is the case, why not live fully for one’s own pleasure, with no concern about how the pursuit of that pleasure may affect others? I find that conclusion both disturbing and destructive. It leads to a hopeless societal structure and to a hollow individual structure.

I believe that God, the Creator of All, has very much given purpose to life, and especially to that life called “human”—for it is humanity that is meant to image God to the world. We, in our lives and loves, in our work and service, in our fun and families, are meant to show the world the wholeness and the holiness of God. And when each of us individually returns to dust, we have the privilege of leaving a heritage that is marked by goodness.

That sounds like a life worth living.