Journaling in Exile: Day 2
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. He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.”
Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.
I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act, says the Lord.”
-Ezekiel 37:1-6, 9-10, 14
God, I’ve been thinking about breath a lot lately. Listening a little closer to my own, just in case. Worrying about the scarcity of ventilators, and the people on them. Holding my breath when I hear numbers and names reported in the news. Feeling my breath quicken as I think about projections and wonder when one of those numbers is going to become someone I know.
There are so many struggling for breath, as the virus attacks their respiratory systems in varying degrees —around the world, across the country, and in our own city too. But actually contracting the virus is not the only thing making it difficult to breathe during this time, and I’m probably not the only one struggling to breathe deeply, as anxiety sits heavy on my chest and as more rainy days ahead make me savor the fresh air and sunshine.
It feels like you have set me down in the middle of a weird valley full of dry, breathless bones, taken me on a virtual tour of the drought, and then asked the same frustrating question you asked Ezekiel: “Well Brittany, what do you think? Can these bones live?” And I have to admit, I feel like I should have a reassuring answer. I wonder if Ezekiel felt the same pressure? You’d think a prophet could answer God definitively. After all, his job is to speak a word from God to the people of God. Shouldn’t he have a more confident statement of faith in this moment? “Yes God, you are at work redeeming all things.” But instead, he answers with what seems like a non-answer, “O Lord God, you know.” If Ezekiel can’t answer the question, how am I supposed to?!
But God, I think I get it. Maybe there isn’t any other answer in the midst of so many unknowns. I have no idea how Ezekiel sounded or what he was thinking when he answered, but I know I cycle through a variety of tones to my “O Lord God, you know” answer all in one day. They range from an exasperated and desperate, “O God, I have no idea! I hope you do!”, to a frustrated and anxious, “Heck if I know?! Do you?!”, to a statement of surrender and faith: “I have no idea, but I’m going to trust you do.”
I wish I had answers and I’m sure Ezekiel did too. Instead of dry bones finding breath and sinew and flesh, you could have given Ezekiel (and me if you want) a vision of what was to come; an actual peek into the future. But you chose to speak in metaphor then and I think you choose to speak that way now. I have no idea what life will look like moving forward. I don’t know when this ends or what the damage will look like. I don’t know how long it will take to recover or what recovery even means. But I know that you are a living, breathing God who joins us in the middle of the valley, breathing life into dry bones and calling us to do the same.
So breathe in me, o breath of God, that I might, in turn, breathe life to those around me. Amen.
For some listening to go with your reflecting, check out Lauren Daigle’s song “Come Alive (Dry Bones) at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7PUW1olxx8.