Did the prophet Ezekiel feel similar to the way I feel today when God showed him the valley full of dry, decayed bones? I desperately wonder if Ezekiel was near the bottom of his barrel of encouragement when God gave him this timely vision. Was he feeling like he was trying to survive in the land of the living with a heart that was already half-dead? Was God trying to give Ezekiel more than a single message for the nation of Israel? Could He have been trying to tell Ezekiel, “I see you. I see what you have been going through; I do know how you feel.” Was He trying to make a point to Ezekiel that the way things appear to our natural eyes is not what is actually real? Possibly reminding him that the way things appear shouldn’t make us feel discouraged or let down? Was God in some way telling Ezekiel, and each one of us, that He sees much more than we think He does, and he really does know everything what we are going through here on earth?
I don’t know the answers to all my questions, but I know today that I feel like a person who resides in the land of the living with a heart that is half-dead. I’m sure you are thinking, “I don’t want to read something sad and discouraging,” and I certainly do not blame you one bit. Who has time to feel discouraged in the land of the living? After all, in this land the focus is entirely about life, fun, and finding happiness. I mean, isn’t that what we are “living” for? Spending time with our families, seeing our children and loved ones reach milestones in their lives, taking part in the enjoyment and celebration; now that is really living.
Everywhere you turn in the land of the living, you see happiness. From commercials on television, to conversations in the workplace, society loves life. It’s evident in what we talk about and what we value as most important. Life is going on all around us, and it’s truly unavoidable.
As God showed Ezekiel a vision of a valley, everywhere he looked he saw piles of bones as dry as dust. I would imagine with that scene came feelings of hopelessness, loss, and despair. Were those piles of dust and rubble the remnants of people’s hopes and dreams? Was that a picture of what disappointment looks like in a person’s heart when they know that life is not ever going to work out like they had hoped? I imagine what Ezekiel saw to be a symbolic picture of discouragement and hopes that have crashed and burnt. In the midst of this vision, God asks Ezekiel a question that truly brings tears to my eyes. “Son of man,” God asks, “can these bones live?” With doubt lingering in his mind and the thought that nothing resembling life could ever come from this devastating scene, Ezekiel replies, “O Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”
A buzzer in heaven must have rang at that moment signaling to the angels that a right answer had been given because the Bible tells that God responded in a most unbelievable way. I can almost hear the excitement that must have been in God’s voice when He began to tell Ezekiel exactly what He and only He planned to do in such a desperate situation.
Ezekiel writes in chapter 37: “Then he said to me, ‘Prophesy to the 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.'”
Obeying as he had been commanded, Ezekiel begins to speak to this valley of dry bones, and as he is prophesying, a rattling sound is heard. The Bible explains how the bones began to come together, followed by tendons and flesh until miraculously, piece by piece, the bodies of real people began to form. As the bodies became more stable, these previous bags of bones, became sturdy enough to stand up on their own feet. Imagine the amazement that must have been on Ezekiel’s face when he realized what was happening right in front of his very eyes. God then tells him to prophesy to the breath and tell these old but newly formed people to breathe! As he obeys again, he sees that God has indeed brought life to this valley of death and that life has revealed itself through a vast army of living, breathing soldiers standing everywhere!
This chapter ends with God declaring to Ezekiel that what looks like cut off hope for the nation of Israel is not the case. God explains to Ezekiel that He has an amazing future for that nation because He is their real hope, and only He can bring them back to life.
In light of my life, and my half-decayed heart, I so love this story. It proves to me so many things I need to know about my Lord. Maybe Ezekiel did not feel this way, but I often feel like God does not see all I go through in life. Like He forgets about my disappointment or the many times a day my feelings get hurt. Little things people say or do that they think nothing of in the land of the living. Actions and words that cut deep enough to hurt even a heart that has developed a tough outer covering. So many times I protect people who hurt my feelings because if I lose my cool or get upset in front of them, they would be very embarrassed about their words or actions. After all, in the land of the living, we cater to the living. It’s the people who feel half-dead who are the oddballs.
Not long after Holt’s accident, I heard a group of women talking about their children and plans for the prom that year. I was nearby, so one of the women said to the other women, “Kim, is right there, let’s not discuss this right now.” To which the one of the women replied back, “Oh, I am sure she will understand,” and she kept on talking about her child’s plans.
I cannot change the mentality of a world that revolves around the living. I cannot change the mentality of people who, thankfully for them, do not know what it is like to bury a child or lose a loved one. What I know is that if they had been through my same experiences, they would feel differently about a lot of things, of that I am certain.
What I have learned through Ezekiel’s encounter that helps me in these situations is that God alone knows all. He knows, sees, and hears what hurts my feelings and makes my heart decay even faster. He sees when I hold my tongue or don’t respond back to let others know how hurt I really feel. When the feelings of those in the land of the living take precedent time and time again over those who feel grief and hurt, He alone knows. And, I believe some day, in some miraculous way, God will mend all those broken, painful pieces and bring them back to life again.
A God who can rebuild a strong, vast army from a valley of dust, can certainly weave possibility into situations in my life that appear hopeless to the natural eye. What looks like a life cut short can be used to accomplish the work of many strong soldiers. God can breathe life to disappointing circumstances in the most unexpected ways when He is our hope. I cry a lot of days even though I am tougher than I ever thought I would be. Some days I still sit, like Ezekiel, looking at a field of disappointment and focus on my loss. But faintly, I can hear God asking me, “Can these dry bones live?” And quietly, yet confidently, I respond, “O Sovereign Lord, only you alone know.”
**I want to wholeheartedly say, “THANK YOU” to the many people who have helped us by purchasing a necklace in order to help fund the mission trip for Hunter and Dave to go to the Dominican Republic in June. Hunter’s new name for me is now “Necklace Woman!” I appreciate the orders and have been so blessed to think that you would think so much of the necklaces to buy them for yourselves or give as gifts to others. You help breathe life into “The Holt Rowland Foundation,” and the entire Rowland family is extremely grateful. As the trip gets closer, I will update you with more specifics and certainly give you details about the trip when they return.