We are sitting in the darkness of a church I don’t attend. We sit silently, and it is now that I feel communion — we do not need to talk, we only need to be.
Scripture after scripture goes by, and the candles are lit slowly, the light progressing through the sanctuary. I am restful, but my skin prickles with anticipation: with the light comes the end of darkness, and I wait.
It comes, as I knew it would, because that is the beauty of the liturgy.
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. 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. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”
Tears spring to my eyes. I listen as the familiar words are read, and I think back to the winter of darkness when my friend said over the phone, “Cath, you know that dry bones passage in Ezekiel? I can’t get it out of my mind.” And I remember reading it after we hung up and being caught up in the redemption of Israel.
The redemption of all Creation.
I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”
Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. 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.’”
All I can think about is how bizarre it is that God should choose to breathe life into my dry bones.
He does choose to, though; once, at a specific moment in history, and again, daily, hourly, every moment. As He chooses to breathe life into me, I become more and more my Creator’s creature.
The real man is at liberty to be his Creator’s creature. To be conformed with the Incarnate is to have the right to be the man one really is. Now there is no more pretense, no more hypocrisy or self-violence, no more compulsion to be something other, better and more ideal than what one is. God loves the real man. God became a real man.
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ethics
This passage reverberates in my brain, and I feel released from the pressure to reach perfection. God loves the real man. Now there is no more reason for self-violence, for self-hatred, for shame.
And I raise my hands in song. I open them with gratitude.
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. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.
Most of the time, I interpret myself into those dry bones. It is my brokenness that is healed. It is my redemption I see.
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.’” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.
For the first time, though, I wonder what it would be like to be Ezekiel. To hear from the Lord this impossible command: Prophesy to these dry bones!
I’m sorry, Lord, but that’s crazy.
There is no redemption here.
There is no hope.
I know what the possibilities are, and life is not one of them.
“I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life...Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”
Lord, do you know what you’re saying? These people, this person, this situation, this destruction cannot be redeemed.
It is broken beyond repair. The bones are dry.
I cannot prophesy because I do not believe.
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.’ 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. Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. 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.’”
How can Ezekiel believe that God would revive the brokenness of Israel? His belief is just as unfathomable to me as the sinews and tendons stretching over these newly formed bodies.
I am as in awe of Ezekiel’s faith as I am of the living and breathing bones.
Not only am I walking, breathing evidence of God’s redemption, but I am called to be Ezekiel.
I am called to speak hope.
I am called to look at the dry bones in my life — in the world — and speak truth over them.
I am both the dry bones redeemed and the bringer of the news of redemption.
Lord, help my unbelief.
[Scripture from Ezekiel 37:1-14]
[Painting: Leptit Monde]
[Photo: Anjan Chatterjee]
[Photo: Bill Liao]