“As a father has compassion for his children, so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him. For he knows how we were made; he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:13,14).

Remember that you fashioned me like clay; and will you turn me to dust again?” (Job 10:9)

It must be hard to be God. So much to remember. Covenants old and new. Assorted promises. Iniquities (or remembering to forget them). Individuals like Nehemiah who every time you turn around was asking God to remember him for this or that. Or the thief on the cross, who wanted our Lord to remember him when Jesus came into the kingdom.


How does God stay so organized? His prayer-mail (p-mail for short) inbox is always full, as Jim Carrey found out during his brief stint as God in Bruce Almighty. Of course, he has legions of angels who do his bidding, so like any good leader God delegates tasks. Maybe there’s an AS2 ( if you recall It’s a Wonderful Life) in charge of remembering the names of stars (cf. Psalm 147:4). Or little Timmy’s guardian spirit whispers the boy’s name in God’s ear when the child prays for Mommy and Daddy and a new puppy and please don’t let them serve pizza and green beans together at school. How about the seraph in charge of a nation who can recite from memory the details of its history or the reference librarian in the heavenly archives who can put a finger on just the right record at a moment’s notice?


But even angels aren’t perfect, so sometimes God must get frustrated with the process and do things for himself, “with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm” (Deuteronomy 5:15). And some items he neither needs nor wants help with: memories so precious that he easily recalls them, promises he will never forget, creatures who never escape his notice.


Like the tiny sparrow he keeps his eye on. Or the flowers of the field, which he clothes with such beauty, though they are here today, gone tomorrow. Or you and me, human beings, made from dust and returning to it, fragile and transitory.


Predators, animal and human, see weakness and pounce on it to feed their bellies or their egos. Not God. He knows how we are made, and amazingly, the fact of our vulnerability is the very source of his goodness toward us. God does not take advantage of our vulnerability to destroy us. Instead, he is moved to compassion and forgiveness. He even chooses to put his treasure in jars of clay inscribed with your name and mine. “These fragile bodies of touch and taste,” as the song puts it, are his instruments to do great things! We are sacraments of God, concrete expressions of his grace.


“Remember, you are dust.” We hear those words spoken annually on Ash Wednesday. But even should we forget, God remembers, and because he does, he comes to our aid: to help, to heal, to forgive. Even with all the universe he has to oversee, all the details he must remember to keep everything going, we are never far from the front of his consciousness, never out of sight, out of mind.


God remembers.


© 2009 Tom Cheatham


Song lyrics from “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” by Bruce Cockburn