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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Hemingway

Beauty For (Dust and) Ashes


"Just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man" 1 Corinthians 15:49

Snow is beautiful isn’t it? All of us can appreciate the wonder of a landscape transformed from dull, grey winter hues into crisp, white freshness. The way the tree branches are picked out in intricate detail, the tracks of birds across the lawn in the morning, the pure, joyful cleanness of it all.

And don’t we love to try to catch snowflakes on our gloves or sleeves, and hold them close to catch a glimpse of the intricate delicacy of the individual crystals before they melt away? Glorious in their sixfold symmetry, each one a unique work of art never to be repeated.

We have a God who loves beauty. He delights to create beautiful things. We see this aspect of His character stamped all over the universe we inhabit, from the galaxies fathomless distances away to the structure of the DNA that maps our physical being. From the sunrises and sunsets painted across the skies every second of every day, to the landscapes they illuminate. It is beautiful because He is beauty.

But did you know that a snowflake starts as a speck of dust? A super cold water droplet ‘seeds’ onto a particle of dust (or pollen or smoke) and grows into the hexagonal crystalline shape that water molecules always form on freezing. As more water vapour solidifies onto the natant crystal, the familiar and unique shape forms. Slight changes in temperature and humidity on the crystal’s journey to Earth control the exact shape of the snowflake.

Is dust beautiful? If I asked you to describe the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen, it may be a person you love or admire, it might be a place or view that’s imprinted on your mind, or a spectacular sunset or firework display. It might even be a remembered help or relief in time of trouble. But no one is going to describe the dust that covered the top shelf of the bookcase last Tuesday.

Dust has no worth, no beauty and it is unwelcome in our homes. How much time do we spend with spray and cloth, trying to eliminate it?! You don’t need to answer that…

The Bible uses dust as a picture of death, decay, sorrow, despair, suffering, humiliation, and worthlessness. (1 Samuel 2:8, Genesis 18:27, Joshua 7:6, Nehemiah 9:1, Job 30:19 etc) All things that result from the presence of sin in our lives. God created human beings perfect, in His image, and we were designed to glorify God and be able to enjoy close fellowship with Him. But our rebellion against God and our determined preference for other things above Him, mean that in His sight we are become like dust. We are unworthy of His love and goodness, we have no beauty in His eyes and we are not welcome in His home.

Does that seem harsh? You may think you’re quite good, and that’s true in one sense. Its’s a question of perspective. Does one speck of dust look good compared to another speck of dust? There isn’t much to tell between them. One human to another you are probably very good.

You may also think you are worth a lot. And that’s also true in one sense. Created in God’s image, human beings have inherent dignity and value. No other creature has the honour of God’s image stamped upon them. But sin has spoiled us and rendered us unworthy. Unworthy of the intimate relationship with our creator, and the eternal bliss that we were designed to enjoy. To a God of indescribable beauty and infinite purity, you do not measure up. No one does.

All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.” Romans 3:12

But the good news is, that God is a God who transforms. The God who makes snowflakes out of specks of dust can take you with all your sin and clothe you with His beauty. The God who transforms dreary landscapes with the fresh fallen snow can take away your sin and rebellion and replace it with a pure white robe of perfection.

How does He do this?

Our dustiness comes from our father Adam, who was formed from the dust and who, with his wife, first rebelled against God. We perpetuate his rebellion in our lives by our sinful acts, which come from the sinful nature we inherit from him, along with every other human being who has ever lived.

Except one.

There was a second Adam. A man who lived a perfect life and didn’t deserve to die, because death is the due wages of sin. But He did die. Not for His own sins, but for the sins of a people more numerous than the snowflakes that cover the ground in winter. And because of this perfect sacrifice, God raised Him back to life to show that He accepted His death as punishment for the sins of those people, and that those sins would therefore be forgiven and forgotten forever. What remains? Beauty. Perfection. Cleanness. Purity.

If we trust in this second Adam, Jesus Christ, as the one who took our sins and died instead of us, then we become like the snow. We are precious in God’s sight because of Jesus. We are welcome in God’s home because of Jesus. We are forgiven, covered, cleansed, transformed by Him.

1 Corinthians 15: 47-49 sums it up:

“The first man (Adam) was of the dust of the earth; the second man (Jesus) is of heaven.

As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven.

And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man”

Unwelcome dust or precious beauty? God offers this transformation to all who will come to Him. He will never turn anyone away.

It’s actually better than the transformation of dust to snowflake: in a snowflake, the dust is still there. It’s hiding in the middle. But God removes our sin entirely- although in this life it continues to plague us, it does not count against us in God’s eyes, and we look forward to a day when it will be removed forever and we will live in God’s house, completely and eternally dust free!

There’s one more lesson from the snowflakes. No two are the same. Why is that? Because no two snowflakes have the same journey from sky to ground. They are shaped by the route they take and by the conditions they are subjected to. And yet they all reflect the glory of God in His creative power. Once transformed by Christ, we reflect the glory of God in our lives, but we are not clones. We are not all the same. We have different gifts and abilities, different strengths to put to work in the Kingdom of God, and different weaknesses to struggle against. We have been shaped by our different journeys, and no one’s journey is the same. So don’t look at other Christians and bemoan your perceived inadequacies or be proud of the gifts you didn’t earn. We were all dust and we have all been transformed and our differences will be used to reflect God’s glory in uniquely different ways. Strive to reflect that glory and beauty in your own life, however God has shaped, and is continuing to shape you, by His grace.


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