Back to Dust: Thoughts on Psalm 90*

Every Monday, ITW folks meets online to read a psalm together, meditate and then share a few thoughts. All are welcome to join us.

So, Psalm 90 is one of those psalms that really focus on the brief span of mortality:

“You turn us back to dust/and say, ‘Turn back, you mortals.’/For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past/ or like a watch in the night.”

It goes on to talk about life’s toils and troubles, and how swiftly mortal things fade. Totally appropriate thoughts in a Lent season.

But what got me was the first two verses:

You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

I just started thinking that if God is our “dwelling place” in all generations, and if God is everlasting that really this mortal life is just the brief span of time when we are (maybe only in our ability to perceive) separated from the body of God. Maybe this means that we carry a part of God in us and that much of the pain of life is that we somehow imagine that we are separated from that larger force of God (or the universe). Maybe the distractions of mortal life keep us from perceiving that we are always connected.

Which makes sense to me when I think of the thing that bring us joy in life — connection with others who also carry that part of God in them. So when we love, it’s like we are touching another small part of the whole body of God. It’s something we recognize or remember as eternal and right — that we are part of everything, we are always dwelling in the body of God (or the universe).

It may be to dust that we return, but maybe it is to star dust.

*(I normally avoid psalms like Psalm 90 — I’m not a big fan of the wrathful god image, and thus, this qualifies for me as one of those annoying psalms that make me a little twitchy. But this seemed a good psalm for the Lent theme otherwise. And then one us mentioned how she was thinking about wrath and anger and how it can be helpful as a signal for when something needs to change. It made me think about pain, and how frequently pain can warn us away from things (and situations, and event people) that are hurtful. Sneaky psalm.)

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