This week, I experienced my first real snowstorm since I lived in Michigan in 2014, and I was surprised at my own level of excitement in the moment. While my brother shoveled the snow (thanks Chris), I put on my snow boots and 3 layers of clothes (thanks Dad for the nylon pants), and began walking through the streets of my neighborhood with my friend and walking partner, Rhonda.
Bless her heart, I probably seemed like the most non-New Yorker ever, practically skipping through the snowy streets on our hour break from work, but as any good friend does, she let me have my moment of unadulterated joy. I needed that. I needed to LIVE.
In the bible, there is the story of a man who was given a vision by God of a valley of dry bones. God asked Ezekiel "can these dry bones live?", to which he responded "God, only you know," an answer that I feel on so many levels, and a response I've given God so many times just this year.
But God didn't just stop there. He actually told Ezekiel to speak life and breath into the vast landscape of bones. Let's pause for a minute and imagine this for a second. I would think God was trying to play me. I mean we're not just looking at dead people. We are looking at BEYOND dead people. Dry bones. Cracked bones. Dusty bones. Skeletons! Uh-uh... this is starting to sound like the plot of a horror film, and God *knows* how much I'm not into all of that. But Ezekiel, however he felt about this vision, he still obeyed God.
As he spoke life into this very dark vision, he began to witness the graphic imagery of these dead bones coming to life. Now if I would have made it even this far in the dreamcycle, I would have been begging to wake up. But Ezekiel continued to take mental note of the miracle he was experiencing. And with that viewpoint, God interpreted the sight into a promise to rescue his people from captivity into safety.
"I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live again and return home
to your own land. Then you will know that I, the Lord, have spoken,
and I have done what I said. Yes, the Lord has spoken!"
- Ezekiel 37:14 -
As I reflect on this year, on all of the trials and disappointments, on all of the grief and heartbreak, on all the tears I've shed, I imagine that some of the dry bones in that valley are mine. So many hopes deferred, so much fear, anguish, and resentment to the point where I no longer recognized myself. My heart went cold and dark and the light dimmed from my eyes. But then I began to speak directly to my fear, my pain, my resentment, believing that the Spirit of God would restore my loved ones and I, not just to the life we had before things fell apart, but to a new life in a new land with... A New Hope. *cues Star Wars theme music*
Restoration is a rocky period; the instability that transformation brings has made me emotional, but it has also caused me to begin to believe anew in the promises of God for my life. I've had to do a lot of apologizing to the people closest to me, because they have been the ones in the "blast radius" of my personal implosion. Like Ezekiel, I look upon this valley -- a season of drought and despair -- almost shocked that God Himself would ask for my opinion about its feasibility to come back to life. Some days I laugh incredulously at the invitation to respond. Because God, only You know how we'll recover from this year. I'm exhausted of trying to figure it out on my own. This hour, and every hour, I need thee. Please show up.
In the meantime, I'll go beyond how I feel and choose to listen and obey. Let me start by speaking these words: Arielle, you will live again. You will breathe again. These brief moments of unadulterated joy will become the norm again. Through it all, you will never be alone. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.
Author's Note: I was reminded about Ezekiel's story after re-reading my friend Janele's blog "The Valley of the Dry Bones", a collection of her writings as a cancer warrior. I can't believe it's been FIVE years since she began this journey, and she is an inspiration to me and so many others. Check it out and be encouraged, witnessing her story changed my life.