This spring I enrolled in an English grammar course for my graduate studies. Grammar is an area of education that I categorize as entirely cerebral. By this categorization I simply mean to imply that grammar is not a topic that bleeds into any other experiences of my life.  It stands alone as an isolated entity. An island.

Or it did before I engaged in the coursework. In this reflecting I’ve discovered a connection between grammar and my own spirituality.

Work with me.

In the English language there is a category called Dummy subjects. Dummy subjects are “stand in” words, signifiers, and vestiges of a previously referenced subject. A Dummy subject’s job is to point back to the main subject.

The party is tonight. It will be fun.

It is the Dummy subject.

The important thing to note about Dummy subjects is that they encapsulate no meaning on their own. They are hollow signposts set to remind us of what is actually meaningful, the main subject.

I have many Dummy subjects in my life: grad school, work, and Monday night at Founders. I can pick and choose however I like, I can arrange them in order of favorites but all of them are simply signposts. Their only job is to point me to Christ. All subjects in my life are meant for this one job.

That’s the precursor to my reflections. All these Dummy subjects are ‘supposed’ to point me to Christ but instead they point me to themselves or, more dangerously, to myself.

In theory the Christian life is meant to rewire aspects of our nature to help us forget ourselves, to forsake particular luxuries and favorite pastimes. It is a life to fast—to pray—to meditate.

Notice I said “in theory”? Because in actuality we have Dummy subjects cropping up all over trying to point us in the wrong directions, away from the cross and onto ourselves.

During the last meal of his life, Christ washed his disciples’ feet. He washed his way around the room until he came to Peter.

“No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”

Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

“Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean.

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. (John 13: 8-13).

I love Peter. He makes all the mistakes and we get to learn from them. He gets caught up with the Dummy subject of being washed. Of being tangibly clean, ‘then also my head and my hands’, when Christ—the GREATEST SUBJECT OF ALL TIME—kneels before him offering a simple blessing.

The great lie of our lives is that we are the main subject. The great villainy is the idea that we are the heroes. We have a debilitating hero complex.

All of creation leads into Good Friday. The crucifixion is the main subject of everything. Things that came before the cross, what came after, and even the events of this world that will occur after our own deaths point to an afternoon on a hill in Jerusalem.

All creation stands as a signpost pointing to Good Friday. To the sacrifice knowingly given, willingly given.

This year I’ve spent too much time in front of mirrors attempting to figure myself out. What my purpose is, where I am going in life, why I am in Grand Rapids? Yesterday I looked in the mirror and realized I too am a Dummy subject.

I am no hero.

I am a signpost.

My only purpose is to point to the cross and the resurrection.


  1. Elaine

    This is comforting in a big way.

  2. Katie Van Zanen

    One of the reasons I love learning languages… I know that the linguistic tics of Arabic have prompted reflection on how we understand ourselves and God. Thanks, Bekah.


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