Abraham Heschel used to say that we are part dust and part divine – in other words, part of us aims at the highest and most noble things in life, and the other part of us is attracted to the lowest, darkest things in life. The good part is divine (directed towards heaven and life), the bad part is dust (directed towards earth and death). Dust is more than just particles of earth. We are made from the dust.
Psalms 103 shows us that dust is a symbol of man’s weakness and of his mortality.
In a spiritual sense, dust is the lower part of you – the base part that is the opposite of good – the part of you that thinks low thoughts, is attracted to darkness, harbors things that are ugly – the part that can only culminate in death.
But here lies the struggle: There is another part of us that is divine, that aims for the higher part of us – the original way we were created to live. It’s the part of you that thinks the highest thoughts, is attracted to light, harbors things that are lovely, and embraces all that leads to life. Paul showed the difference between dust and the divine when speaking of the natural and spiritual body:
It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power.
It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body
1 Corinthians 15:43–44 (ESV)
This brings us to a daily dilemma – the tug of war that leads to opposite fates. Part of you wants to embrace all that is noble and pure, and the other part of you seeks only what is vile. One leads to life, the other inevitably to death.
It’s always easier to do things based on the dust because you are just obeying your lower nature – just as it’s easier to go downhill than it is to go uphill.
This dual between Dust and the Divine is constant as we are created both flesh and spirit. We must decide which one we will follow.
There is a promise found in Psalms 103:14:
For he knows how we were made; he remembers that we are dust. Psalm 103:14)
God knows the struggle that daily ensues in us just as He knows what we are made of. Will you allow the Father to help you, as Paul said, to “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”? Galatians 5:16