Renewal in the Wilderness

April 11th, 2011

By Michael Spory, a senior art and photography double major from Boswell, Pa. EMU student Michael Spory

Ezekiel 37:1-14

I find it ironic that the scripture for this week is about Ezekiel and the Valley of Dry Bones, where the Old Testament prophet receives a vision from God about the people of Israel.

I feel the irony as I find myself dry and parched, drained of the life-giving Spirit that comes like a breath of wind from the mountains or a gulp of cool water in the desert. This is the time of year when students buckle and break down with the weight of their projects and papers and exams. More often than not, I feel less like Ezekiel, speaking words of life into these dusty skeletons, and more often like the bones themselves: bare, empty, and devoid of that Breath of Life that only comes from above.

But I sense that this story of renewal in the wilderness offers more to us today as followers of Christ than simply as historical context to the Old Testament narrative about the Israelites. This is about hope in the dry season, for sunrise after the darkest hour of morning. This is about the life that Jesus breathed into each of us when we were nothing but dry bones. When I read this text, I can almost feel the pulsating heat of this valley and the grit of dry sand in my sandals. I hear the rattling of bleached bones as they join tendon to tendon, ball to socket, and I see the newborn breath in their dark eyes as they look to me expectantly, a crowd of people newly remade by the breath of God.

For me, the season of Lent is one of expectation and preparation, where discipline becomes a tangible act of faith to honor the Savior I know is about the face the most painful and difficult part of the salvation story. But on those rushed mornings or very late nights, my faith becomes that dry valley in the heat of the wilderness. I am the bones, helpless without the breath of God to join together the pieces of my tattered and stressful life into something whole, something fully human yet touched unmistakably by the divine hand of a God who comes to us just when we need him.

Even as I continue in this Lenten season, my spirit and body tired and dry as those bones as they lay on the valley floor, I can hear a whisper amid the dusty wind of the stress and the drudgery. A whisper like the one that breathed life into Lazerus, just as it still breathes into the followers of Jesus today as we prepare to celebrate his death and resurrection. A whisper of love like no other, that continues to breathe life into the hearts and souls of his children when they need him most.

Listen. The whisper is coming.