There is a Jewish teaching that is attributed to Rabbi Simcha Bunem of Pershyscha. The Rabbi is reported to have carried two slips of paper with him, one in each pocket. In one pocket were the words, Bishvili nivra ha-olam—“for my sake the world was created.” It’s a phrase from the Jewish Talmud. In the other pocket were the words, V’anokhi afar v’efer”—“I am but dust and ashes.” These words are traced back to Abraham in the Sodom and Gommorah story, where Abraham says to God, “Now that I have been so bold as to speak to the Lord, though I am nothing but dust and ashes” (Genesis 18: 27).
The first can sound like entitlement. But perhaps it is a recognition that we have significance and value in the sight of God. That God fashioned this world with us in it. He made us in His image. He did not abandon us when we failed Him, but through the sacrifice of Christ we can be reconciled to God.
The latter is a great corrective when we get arrogant. When we feel entitled. It is a reminder that we are finite and mortal. It is a reminder that we are created beings, not the creator.
Part of the rhythm of life is to know which pocket to reach into and when. When you have those moments when you feel forgotten, insignificant or that your life has no real value then perhaps it is time to read the words, “for my sake the world was created.” Then there are moments when we are full of pride and entitlement. When we feel the pull to complain about all that we do not have, then we need to reach into our other pocket, and read the words, “I am but dust and ashes.”
Perhaps part of the rhythm of life is the balance of finding delight in the fact that you are created and known by God, and the humility to remember we are nothing without God.