A Blessing in the Dust

Image: A Blessing in the Dust © Jan Richardson

Reading from the Gospels, Pentecost +7, Year C: Luke 10.1-11, 16-20

But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you,
go out into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town
that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you.
Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’ 
—Luke 10.10-11

Knowing when to stay, knowing when to leave: this is one of the most challenging invitations for discernment that we will ever encounter.

There are times, after all, for leaning into the resistance that meets us; times when God calls us to engage the difficulty and struggle that will shape and form us in a way that ease and comfort never can. There are muscles—in our body, in our soul—that can be developed only by pressing through the resistance; not with pride, not with the utter conviction that we are in the right, but with the humility that enables us to summon our intention and will and open ourselves to the grace that carries us through situations that we cannot navigate on our own. There is ground that becomes holy only when we remain long enough to see the blessing that can emerge from struggle, that shimmers through only after the dust the struggle kicks up finally begins to settle.

And then there are times for leaving; times when—as Jesus counsels his disciples—the holy thing to do is to shake the dust from our feet and leave behind a place that is not meant for us.

This blessing is for those times.

Blessing in the Dust

You thought the blessing
would come
in the staying;
in casting your lot
with this place,
these people;
in learning the art
of remaining,
of abiding.

And now you stand
on the threshold
The home you had
hoped for,
had ached for,
is behind you—
not yours, after all.

The clarity comes
as small comfort,
but it comes:
illumination enough
for the next step.

As you go,
may you feel
the full weight
of your gifts
gathered up
in your two hands,
the complete measure
of their grace
in your heart that knows
there is a place
for them,
for the treasure
that you bear.

I promise you
there is a blessing
in the leaving,
in the dust shed
from your shoes
as you walk toward home—

not the one you left
but the one that waits ahead,
the one that already
reaches out for you
in welcome,
in gladness
for the gifts
that none but you
could bring.

—Jan Richardson

2017 update: This blessing appears in Jan’s new book, The Cure for Sorrow: A Book of Blessings for Times of Grief.

For previous reflections on this story, click the images or titles below:

Mapping the Mysteries

Are You Coming or Going?

 Please come visit our Art + Faith page on Facebook! Gary and I would love for you to stop by, “like” the page, and be part of the creative conversation that’s unfolding there. And be sure to check out this summer’s Liturgical Arts Weeks at the Grünewald Guild—classes are filling fast, and we’d be delighted to save you a spot! For a glimpse of the Guild, visit this post: Where Heaven and Earth Meet.

Using Jan’s artwork…
To use the image “A Blessing in the Dust,” please visit this page at janrichardsonimages.com. (This is also available as an art print. After clicking over to the image’s page on the Jan Richardson Images site, just scroll down to the “Purchase as an Art Print” section.) Your use of janrichardsonimages.com helps make the ministry of The Painted Prayerbook possible. Thank you!

Using Jan’s words…
For worship services and related settings, you are welcome to use Jan’s blessings or other words from this blog without requesting permission. All that’s needed is to acknowledge the source. Please include this info in a credit line: “© Jan Richardson. janrichardson.com.” For other uses, visit Copyright Permissions.

10 Responses to “A Blessing in the Dust”

  1. Kellyann Says:

    This is so important to hear, especially since the church often punishes us for leaving or makes us feel in the wrong for leaving. Thank you.

  2. Holly Simons Says:

    Beloved Jan, how could you know these words were so direct, so personal, every line a blessing, an impact I could never have conjured. Holy Spirit, Your message through Jan to me was profound. Thank you …. both.

  3. Ric Says:

    Thank you for saying what I needed to hear.

  4. claire Says:

    A shower of blessings on you, Jan. What you offer is so priceless, so inspiring, so true.
    A heaven of thank your :-)

  5. Pam Says:

    Jan, much to reflect on here. Thank you!

  6. Bill Johnson Says:

    Thank you so much for your inspirational posts. You may never know how great a blessing that they are to me.

  7. Gayle Says:

    Thank you for blessing a stranger with what she needed to hear today. Leaving can be so hard- especially when you don’t know where you are going but know that it is indeed time to do so.

    • Jan Richardson Says:

      Gayle, thanks so much for the gift of your words and your thoughtfulness. I’m glad that you found something here, and I pray it will help sustain you on your way. I wish you many blessings!

  8. Brent Adams Says:

    Dear Jan,
    I am recently released from my position as Chaplain after 15 years, ‘due to a reduction in work force.’ A most difficult path. A dear colleague sent me this blessing ‘in the dust.’ I keep returning to it…potent, hospitable and truly comforting to me and my household. Deep gratitude,

  9. Gwen Acres Says:

    Whether leaving a job, a relationship or life itself, this is so true ! Thank you for such insight and encouragement, Jan.

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