My daughter is sick this morning, so I’m having church on my back porch and I know this is the very kind of church I need. The one with me wearing shorts and messy hair while I fade in and out of caring for my girl while letting God take care of the girl inside of me. The wind rushes in through the screen and the sunlight dances on sun-scorched trees. And somewhere a farmer might be praying for rain while I ask God for the dryness from disappointment to subside inside of me. I ask for fresh wind, an awakening of thirst for new life, and redeemed redirection instead of what the past few days have held for me.
All I really need is to not carry the dryness that disappointment brings with me. To simply feel it and welcome the pain it brings, while allowing it to reveal something bigger that God can use. For some crazy reason I believe that in this thirsty place dry bones will come to life inside of all of us like they did when the prophet spoke in Ezekiel 37 as the Lord commanded.
I look around at the people I love both up-close and long-distance and I see a valley of dry bones begging for new life and repurposed dreams. So I do what nerdy, Jesus girls do…I dig in the Word of God and study dry bones and a priest brave enough to listen.
The Valley of Dry Bones
37 The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. 2 He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. 3 He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”
I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”
4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5 This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”
7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. 8 I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.
9 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” 10 So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.
11 Then he said to me: “Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.’ 12 Therefore prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: My people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; I will bring you back to the land of Israel. 13 Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 14 I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.’”
Maybe you are stuck in the letting go part. The part where you are clinging to what was with a death-grip refusing to let go. I get it, I really do.
Sometimes empty hands, with nothing to hold onto, make more useful tools. Clenched fists in the air stirs up bitterness and questions, those are just distractions and tools of the enemy. It’s the same old trick he always uses against the discouraged people of God. But, we have a choice about the things that we hold in our hands. Tools of regret or empty hands in surrender waiting to be filled up.
Clarity often comes after the tears and fit-throwing stop. My ears seem eager to listen to the One my soul loves with every ounce of me. Friday I clenched my fists and cried tears that hurt. On Saturday I let it all go and decided that I needed it to be the last day I cried about something I wasn’t meant to have anyway. And on Sunday, God breathed beautiful new life inside of me as I had church alone on my porch.
Soul surrender and empty hands are the best place to begin again. My fresh start cannot be an angry start. It just can’t. My anger and hurt can only be a brief stopping point to signal redirection and prayerful requests for fresh purpose. Ezekiel spoke when God commanded and said what the Lord told him to say not his flawed, empty words, but the powerful word of God that makes dead things will to live.
The name Ezekiel means God Strengthens. When I think about all the things our names could mean, I would like to think that somehow my name is: Jennifer, the one God Strengthens. Perhaps, that is your new name, too. Verse 14 says that the Spirit will dwell in us, and we will live. That God will place us in our own land so that we will know that He alone gets the credit. He spoke it. He performed it. He did it. Not us.
God’s placement is better than where man might displace us. His placement is better than where we think we are supposed to be. That closed door that just slammed in my face, that I completely lost it over, gives way to something better. I am growing increasingly tired of trying to place myself somewhere and then feeling the weight of disappointment from rushing when I’m supposed to wait and listen. I am not desperate for an open door; I’m desperate for God’s perfect will in my life. And when I am still enough to listen to my unsettled heart and hear the wind of the Spirit telling me to take one obedient step after another, my dry bones stop the aching rattle and I trust in the God who has ordered every wobbly step that I’ve taken so far. My heart longs for the Spirit of God and something fresh and not entirely spelled out for me right now.
Maybe that’s what God can use the most, the thing that I don’t get credit for. For the step I never saw myself taking.
In verse 10, Ezekiel spoke when the Lord commanded him and “breath entered; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.”
Breath in Hebrew is ruah, which can be translated breath, wind, or spirit. Verse 12 the word graves figuratively describes the conditions of the people. I don’t know about you, but I see a tired army who needs fresh vision and hope. I wish I could tell you I’ve had a sunny disposition about this whole thing, but I’ve been a hot-mess in high-heels and my attitude has been less than stellar.
Maybe it’s time to ask this question, the same question God asked Ezekiel,“Daughter of God, can these dry bones inside of you live?”
I pray your answer is yes. Dry bones can will to live and God alone can speak to your scattered heart and make sense of the graveyard of disappointment you are facing now.
My prayer for us today:
Dry bones came together in your Holy Word and so will your plans come together for me and for my sisters. For only You can breathe life into dry bones and cover them with flesh and new life. Do it again, Lord, bring dry bones back to life. Then we will all know dead dreams can come back to life with greater potential and life-giving force. Let us be women who speak only when you tell us to, that we would be brave enough to walk uncertain steps that make us more like you and a little less like us. My heart is a mess, but you are the God who calms the storm inside of me.
We really don’t need credit or validation; we just need your unmerited and undeserved favor. Breathe life into our dry bones and stop the rattling of confusion and self-doubt. Let me be a light today and help me know that I am the girl You strengthen.
Much love to you,
Photo Credit by: trs125