Tumbling in the Sand
“The hand of the LORD came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry.” – Ezekiel 37:1-2
Can you imagine the wind? The wind, whistling through the valley, catching in the cracks and crevices of dry bones, causing low moans and high whines and soft hissing. Catching the dust and sand, causing it to dance in tiny spinning whirlings. Knocking lose bone occasionally against bone, making soft clinking noises.
But otherwise, silence.
I can’t imagine a bird song there or the sound of water or that Ezekiel was even able to speak above a whisper when he replied, “O Lord GOD, you know.” The reality of long-past horrors that brought all these bones to rest in the valley still pressing, imposing silence. Only the blowing wind to make a sound.
It makes me wonder about the horrors that press us into silence: What has caused the bones to pile up in our lives that lead us to hushed whispers? What leads us to the whispers and moanings of “Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.”? And how often do we whisper that as we look at things in our lives, in our communities, in our families: hopes lost, dreams shattered, love and life seemingly disappointed, even horrors of hatred and systemic brokenness playing out on our bodies? And while maybe our lives have not been full of horrors (though some certainly have), we are not strangers to loss and brokenness and events that leave skeletons.
The absolute statement of dry bones: the lifeless, choice-less, unquestionable-ness of death seems so final as to close off any alternative, any question, any imagining at all. Our conviction of hope lost ends with a period—an exclamation point even—and offers no room for response, and so the silence of the wind.
I think that it is absolutely incredible that what God brings into this valley, then, is not another exclamation point, but a question. “Mortal, can these bones live?” It’s as though in asking the question, God erases the period, twists the exclamation point, opens the sentence again: invites us to wonder, to dream, to imagine… “Can these bones live?” Can what seems dead have new life? Can what is broken be mended? Can what seems hopeless find hope? Can this barren wasteland be made anew?
And even our quiet whispers of “God, you know,” even our furtive prayers, our wistful dreaming, our glimmers of hope in response to that question seem to be enough of an invitation for that wind to begin to breathe and sing…
Featured image: “The Valley of Dry Bones” by Bill Fulton. See his work at his blog: Scribbles and Jots