Before our grandchildren could talk, our daughter taught them to deal with their minor toddler falls with a simple “Brush it off!” She illustrated this by brushing her hands together, an action the children quickly picked up and often used as a means of showing that they understood when something was a nonissue.
Brushing those hands together has become, for me, symbolic of brushing off the “dust man,” the mortal man described in the second chapter of Genesis. When a fall—any untoward event—happens, I’ve found it helpful to immediately identify with the “male and female” of God’s creating, made in the divine image (Genesis 1), rather than an identity made of dust (Genesis 2). In other words, I can mentally brush off the mortal view of life and continue to hold to what I know of my life as created spiritually by God. Then I’m not allowing the dust to gather, build up, or insinuate itself into my life.
One day I did not think through something before opening my mouth, and I blabbed a fairly harsh judgment on a particular topic. The person I was speaking to was surprised, and gently confronted me about what I said. At first, I was ready to justify my opinion, to mess around in the dust, so to speak. Instead, I decided to follow this counsel from Isaiah: “Shake thyself from the dust” (Isaiah 52:2). I apologized, because I knew that my initial approach to the discussion had not been one that reflected my resourceful, dust-free, loving nature—or my neighbor’s. Later this person and I were able to have a constructive conversation on that topic.