… stooping very low, He engraves with care
His Name, indelible, upon our dust,
And, from the ashes of our self-despair,
Kindles a flame of hope and humble trust.
He seeks no second site on which to build,
But on the old foundation, stone by stone,
Cementing sad experience with grace,
Fashions a stronger temple of His own.
… Patricia St. John (1919-1993), from “The Alchemist
‘He seeks no second site on which to build’…. There is something of that statement that is so powerfully intimate, a passionate pledge of consummate devotion. This site, this person-hood so easily given over to self-despair is the exact location for the branding iron, the permanent ink tattooed. The Name of God engraved on my dust, igniting a flame from nothingness to ‘hope and humble trust’. This God of all creation does not wish to start with something new. No, my God takes my ‘sad experience’ and mixes it, ‘cementing’ with grace. What? become something stronger? No, not of the bootstrap-pull variety that is in truth standing on quicksand. Rather, this secret ingredient that does something to sadness, to evil and destruction, effecting change to anger and unforgiveness, hopelessness; the transforming agent that cannot be conjured up from any effort or asset I possess: grace. Transformation. Redemption.
My God redeems. And, not just once, but over and over–this same ‘me’, created in God’s image, not needing to be erased and recomposed. Perhaps, reconstituted? From the dust of me, yet still the essence of what was begun at the beginning of it all. The dust-essence that carries the DNA, the permanent ink of Creator and created, unique; the dust that remains when all else is burned off…again, and again, and again. This ‘sad experience’ burns away with the bits of self-despair that clogs the life and flow of Love, the arteries calcified by worry and complaint, revived inconceivably a stronger temple worthy of my King. Grace.
12‘Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done.’ 1 Cor 3.12, 13.