"Oh, God of Dust and Rainbows,
"Help us to see
"That without the dust the rainbow
"Would not be."
I first read this poem by Langston Hughes when I was in 10th grade. It struck a chord with me then, and it still does today. Even a short poems like this takes a fair amount of work, to be able to capture a truth so poignant in such a small space on the page. On a scientific level, the poem is true. Rainbows are formed after a rain storm, while there is still water in the air. The sun hits each tiny raindrops, which splits the white light, splashing an array of colors onto the rain-washed sky. Here in California, rain is a rare treat and rainbows are rarer. We cannot have the colored light without the water. In the same way, we could have no rain without dust. Each raindrop forms when water vapor collects around a tiny particle. So, by logical extension, seemingly insignificant dust is essential to the grandeur of the rainbow.
On the surface, then, "Epigram" is a testimony to God's wisdom, how He orchestrates the intracacies of nature. Even dust, which we are constantly wiping away, has a purpose. Hughes understood this, and we would do well to understand the same: there are no extra parts in God's creation.
At the same time, there is a deeper meaning to the truth of this poem. Just as there are no extra parts in nature, there are no extra parts in our lives, nothing that happens that wasn't supposed to happen. I may be going out on a limb by saying that. I am no stranger to the Calvinsim/Arminianism debate, which argues whether God has sovereignty over every action or whether humans have the ability to chose their own fate and God only "allows" bad things to happen. Some say both are true, based on your perspective. My point is not to argue about the sovereignty of God. I am a Calvinist, so I will write from that perspective, a perspective that I think in no way endangers the goodness of God.
As Philip Yancey so wisely said, "For whatever reason God chose to make man as he is--limited and suffering and subject to sorrows and death--He had the honesty and courage to take His own medicine. Whatever game He is playing with His creation, He has kept His own rules and played fair." (Where is God When is Hurts)
Think about it. If we never sinned, we would know intellectually that God was merciful, that it was an integral part of His character, but we would never know it experientially. It could never be as "real" to us as it is today. If I could borrow from another wise source... I don't listen to ZOEgirl very often, but I do appreciate their song "Unbroken," and the words of the chorus: "If I was unbroken, I'd never know/The beauty of hope, and how far grace will go." It is so simple, yet infinitely mind-boggling, pictured in nature, and beautiful. God uses bad for good over and over again, uses dust to produce rainbows, until that day when the rainbows can shine undefiled.