Them bones, them bones gonna’ walk around……
Today, the message at church was about (among other things) Ezekiel, the biblical Old Testament prophet. I know only a few things about Ezekiel – that there is an unleavened bread named after him that is okay to eat if you are on the Daniel Fast; that he saw a wheel “way up in the middle of the sky;” and – courtesy of another song learned as a child – I know that God asked him to raise the dry bones of soldiers into an living army.
Dry bones, like the skeletons we keep in our closets. Living with active addiction is like having only dry bones with which to function in life.
Addiction renders our spiritual bones dry as desert sand. Active disease sucks the marrow from us, the very cells that keep life going. It saps our souls of the muscle to get up and move out of that place, our lifeblood drained from veins and vessels. Without the sinew to hold us together, our skin – protective covering for what has wasted away – falls away until. Our hope gone, there is nothing left of us but dry bones.
This week, having published my first book – a tome of essays addressing my alcoholism and recovery – my bones have been rattled a bit. I long ago decided that if I were to share my experience, strength and hope with others, it is important to be authentic, but sometimes who I authentically am is messy. In publishing the book, I unlocked the closet, swung the door open, and let the bones fall where they may for all to see. If I tidied up my story, I would be in danger of becoming only a bleached-out, “dry” drunk, and not a person in active recovery.
But it’s hard. It’s really difficult because my humanness – my flesh – still just wants to get a bigger closet for my skeletons.
Until this morning, I had been feeling a little embarrassed going public with some of the details of my story; the graphic nature of my pain. And then in church (of all places!) I was reminded about Ezekiel, because you see – what God asked him to do is not all that different from what God has asked me to do – what he asks each person redeemed by his love to do: To spread the message that dry bones can rise up in life again.
In Ezekiel’s own words:
“…Dry bones, bleached by the sun. God said to me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’ I prophesied just as I’d been commanded. As I prophesied, there was a sound and, oh, rustling!
The bones moved and came together, bone to bone. I kept watching. Sinews formed, then muscles on the bones, then skin stretched over them. But they had no breath in them. He said to me, ‘Prophesy to the breath. Prophesy, son of man. Tell the breath, ‘God, the Master, says, Come from the four winds. Come, breath. Breathe on these slain bodies. Breathe life!’
So I prophesied, just as he commanded me. The breath entered them and they came alive! They stood up on their feet, a huge army.
Then God said to me, ‘Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Listen to what they’re saying: ‘Our bones are dried up, our hope is gone, there’s nothing left of us.’
I am prophesying today as he commands me. Yes, me. This middle-aged, middle-American, middle-classed woman seemingly of no great consequence….I am prophesying to the breath to those alcoholics and addicts all the world over walking wounded. The hopeless ones. Because God grabbed me and showed me the bones strewn about, you see. And he says that we are ALL of great consequence.
“I’m bringing the breath of life to you and you’ll come to life. I’ll attach sinews to you, put meat on your bones, cover you with skin, and breathe life into you. You’ll come alive and you’ll realize that I am God!”
He is raising an army of the lost and broken, the addicted. God, breathe on these slain bodies! Breathe LIFE!
There is a sound – oh, a rustling! Dry bones knocking together, but then a wind from Heaven giving breath to a huge, living army. An army that goes forth in flesh to prophesy for the others who have only dry bones with which to function.
Now hear the word of the Lord:
“Therefore, prophesy. Tell them, ‘God, the Master, says: I’ll dig up your graves and bring you out alive—O my people! Then I’ll take you straight to the land of Israel. When I dig up graves and bring you out as my people, you’ll realize that I am God. I’ll breathe my life into you and you’ll live. Then I’ll lead you straight back to your land and you’ll realize that I am God. I’ve said it and I’ll do it. God’s Decree.” – Scriptures from Ezekiel 37 1:-14 (The Message)
Alleluia! Make it so, God. Make it so.