I had a friend who met Jesus twice. He was my sister’s Godfather’s father. He died just last month. But before he went, he met Jesus. We called him Mr. Burrus. I only knew him in his old age. He was 67 when I met him 19 years ago and even then, he looked ancient to me.
Mr. Burrus was not a warm-n-fuzzy guy, but he loved sweets and he was generous with it to a fault. One Easter, Mr. Burrus gave my sisters and me three towering baskets of candy, each with a stick-horse jutting out of the wrapping. They whinnied when you squeezed the button in their ears. We thought he had given us the greatest gift in the world. Not until his funeral did I have much to say about Mr. Burrus beyond, “He gave us presents and met Jesus twice.”
I have wondered since his passing whether those two facts are connected. I wonder if, when he met Him, Jesus rubbed off a little generosity on him. I have never met Jesus or seen Jesus, but I just feel like He would leave some kind of sparkling residue behind. Like fairy-dust, but made of God’s element. The dust of glory, maybe.
My maternal grandfather, Charlie Piccione, was a Jupiter of a man. A life long Catholic and devout Italian, his funeral looked not unlike a heritage festival. After the service, we cleaned out a few of his things, gave them away to family members as mementos. They all still smelled like him. The music box I took smelled like his loyal cologne. We all leave a residue behind on the world, traces of our having been here. We rub off on each other.
When I left high school, I discovered that my classmates and I had created a language. After years of spending every weekday together, we had developed a manner of speaking that was genuinely novel in human philological history. No one at UVA understood that the latin word fulmen is an exclamation meaning, ‘Did anyone else see how awesome I just did that?!’ Or that Oh Hen! means ‘you’re so adorable!’ Then again, no one at UVA knew Paul Zakin or Caroline Michaels. I did. We changed each other. You are changed, you know, by the people who rub off on you.
In the church today, there is a widespread myth of sorts. Well…it’s not entirely a myth. Christians often say, “You know, there was an old Jewish blessing in Jesus’ day that said, ‘may you be covered in the dust of your Rabbi.’ It means you should be so close to your Rabbi that you are covered in the dust of his feet.” While it is not true that such a blessing existed, there is a passage in an early Rabbinical text called ‘The Ethics of the Fathers’ Pirkei Avot. It reads:
Yossei the son of Yoezer of Tzreidah would say:
Let your home be a meeting place for the wise;
dust yourself in the soil of their feet,
and drink thirstily of their words.
It’s the same idea as the myth (just historically accurate): let wise people rub off on you. Whatever sort of schmutz they leave behind as they go through the world—cover yourself in it. Dust or cologne or speech pathology. Be like them. Dust yourself in the soil of their feet.
In the Book of Genesis, in those by-gone days, God would take evening walks in the garden where the first people were living. God liked the way the breeze feels at the end of the day, when the sun is going down. God on a stroll with dust on His blessed feet. Jesus recaptured that: the strolling God. For 33 years, He wandered around Palestine teaching anyone who would listen. Jesus was a nomadic Rabbi, the kind whose foot-schmutz you could cover yourself in. You could wash His feet. He would wash yours. You could be covered in Jesus’ dust.
Do you want some of His dust?