My son thinks dirt makes the best souvenir.
He grabs handfuls of it whenever he sees a pile of sand: At the school As we leave the beach. Near the playground.
Sometimes I’m so busy hauling all of our supplies that I don’t notice right away. He starts to climb up into the minivan and that’s when I see it, his small clamped fist holding his treasured dirt.
He has scooped up a clump of sand in a final effort to keep some of the fun going. So, it’s time to leave the beach or the park or the school or the zoo or wherever? No problem. He’ll just take some soil with him as a memento.
Dust really. Just dust.
I don’t get it. I’ve had kids carry home rocks and flowers and leaves. I’ve even had daughters ask to transport tadpoles home in a pail of water.
But a handful of dirt is no treasure, so I nudge his fingers open and we brush the dirt to the pavement and then I let him enter the minivan.
Of course, some dust clings to his skin. And his sneakers. And anywhere else dirt can settle. But, we’re as brushed off as he can get.
Why hold onto this, I wonder? Why does he want fistfuls of dirt?
I read in Psalm 119 and let this question dig deeper. David writes:
My soul clings to the dust;
give me life according to your word! (Psalm 119:25 ESV).
Have I been clinging to the dust?
That’s what I wrote and underlined in my prayer journal a few months ago and I keep circling back to what that must be like.
What would clinging to the dust look like?
My commentary gives one meaning: it’s being “laid low” (The Bible Knowledge Commentary), like as soon as you try to reach up or look up, you’re knocked down again, face to the earth.
It’s like the mourning David may have experienced, how you put on the sackcloth and you covered yourself in ashes and sat in the dust. It’s sorrow you can’t shake, you’re imprisoned by the grief or the woe.
Unshakeable sadness: That’s clinging to the dust.
But also I consider how dust clogs up our soul and suffocates us. Have I felt so pressed down into the dirt that it was hard to breathe? Like what I really needed was the Spirit of Christ to breathe His life-giving breath into me, clearing out cobwebs and grime and piles of sorrow or sin that have kept me breathless for too long.
And have I been clinging to this? Clinging to earthly concerns. Earthly worries. All the trappings of the circumstances around me. Have they clogged up my spirit in piles of dust and I don’t know how to let go?
Or have I clung to what’s earthly and missed out on reaching for what is heavenly and eternal? Maybe by refusing to let go, I’ve been clinging to dust and not holding on to what has real value.
Do I want a fistful of dust?
Or do I cling to something greater?
The Psalmist continued in this passage:
I cling to your decrees (Psalm 119:31 CSB).
Joshua had similarly instructed Israel:
to love the Lord your God, and to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments and to cling to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.”
Cling to the Lord. Cling to the Word.
I love how the Psalmist turns his revelation, this recognition that he’s been holding on, laid low by the dust, into a prayer and a plea.
Give me life according to your word!
Another commentary I read says:
More life is the cure for all our ailments. Only the Lord can give it. He can bestow it, bestow it at once, and do it according to his word…
Life, Lord! Give me life! New, fresh, strengthened life!
I want to cling to you with everything in me, cling to your decrees, cling to your Word. Help me to rise up out of the dust, to open my closed fists and let the grime fall away. The worries. The earthly pursuits. The grief. The unshakable sorrow.
And help me grasp hold of life in you and in your presence.