A passage from the novel Lead Us Not, which I was working on as time allowed between 2006 and 2010…
Never in my life have I considered putting my thoughts down on paper, but today something drives me to it. I had that urge in the middle of the service tonight as those words reverberated around the church: ‘The Lord remembers we are but dust.’ Tonight I made a covenant with Him, setting out to start my life anew. Tonight the depression will leave me. Tonight my childhood shall cease. Tonight I have made my resolve: these words shall be my witness.
Let my friends mock me; I do not care. The sacrifice of God is a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart he will not despise. The tacky plastic chair was uncomfortable, but it was what I deserved. The air was cold—damp on my skin—but I deserved no better. I will let my friends mock me, for I do not care. Before me the Reader had taken her place at the lectern and had found her page. The Lord is compassionate and gracious, she began, slow to anger, abounding in love, and there came our reply, our voices returning in unison: ‘The Lord remembers we are but dust.’
He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities: ‘The Lord remembers we are but dust.’ For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him: ‘The Lord remembers we are but dust.’ As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us: ‘The Lord remembers we are but dust.’ For He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are but dust.
These words reverberate in my mind even now. With those who keep His covenant and remember to obey His precepts. Yes, the Lord remembers we are but dust. But dust.
I was not there to sing the hymns. My faith is not strong enough for that. I was not there to smile with joy, to show those gray haired ones my piety. I was not there for Mary in the choir. I was not there for the bread and wine. I was there because my heart aches. Because my eyes feel like they will flood with tears. Because they sting and because I feel sick in my stomach. Because I know myself. I was there because my sins weigh down heavily on me, because however hard I try they return to me, because whatever I do I return to them. Because I know what my heart contains.
My desire mirrored the Reader’s words exactly, to come before God in faith, confessing to Him my manifold sin and asking for His healing grace. She paused after she said words just like these, and all I could do was nod my head backwards and forwards, a tear dribbling out from the corner of my eye. Lord, have mercy upon me.
With her words she explained that we were created from the dust of this earth, but for me these ashes are not a sign of my mortality: they represent me entirely. I am dust. Worthless dust. And so I appreciate these words all the more.
‘Remember you are dust,’ she told me as I knelt before her and my congregation, her fingers signing the cross upon my forehead at last. ‘Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.’
I never thought about keeping a journal, but these thoughts grip me within. Tonight is my new beginning. Lent shall be my transport and these words my witness.