“He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”
I said, “Sovereign LORD, you alone know.”
Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! (Ezekiel 37:3-4)
I juggled the package in my arms as I put the key into the slot and opened my front door. My daughter came from the kitchen, smiling, and said “Why are you home so early?” Then her gaze fell on the box, containing my personal belongings, in my hands. Her face fell. “What happened?” I raised my eyebrow in response. My face told all. She came to me, took the box out of my hands and hugged me. “This is so exciting!” I heard her say. Huh? “No,” she explained, when I gave her a look like she was more than a little crazy. “As good as that job was; I know the next one will be even better. This is EXCITING!” That kid. My kid. She is SO my daughter.
My father, a Baptist minister, used to say: Only a young fool or an old man would preach from the book of Revelation.” Whew, good thing I’m not going there today! But this scripture from Ezekiel was the basis for one of his favorite sermons, Dry Bones in the Valley. It’s a promise from God of restoration for Israel. But this morning, it became a promise for me. As I am faced with rebuilding my life again (say it with me – ONE MORE TIME!), I was awakened before dawn, pondering these questions: How can you bring life to a dead situation? How can you breathe new life into a calamity? How do you coax fire from dying embers? The answer came to me from this scripture.
When I first got laid off, I was very optimistic. I’ll get another job – just like THAT, with a snap of my fingers. It soon morphed into – “My break is just around the corner … any day, now …” I mean, how long could this last? I have FAVOR, right? As the days since I was last employed lengthened, reality set in. Half the summer with no job. The fall and into Christmas, still no job. Not that there weren’t opportunities. I’ve had plenty. Interview after interview ended in heartbreak. I’ve never been on so many promising interviews AND been rejected in all my life. WOW. It was enough to make me feel a little paranoid and look at myself asking, “What’s wrong with me?” But it’s nothing personal; a lot of people are out of work right now.
I was on a roller coaster of emotions. I fluctuated between extreme highs with every potential job (I’ll be working within the week!”) to valley lows (“I thought for sure they’d hire me…”) with every disappointment. I went on an unintended, extended hiatus and stopped writing this here blog as I struggled with what to reveal. Some of the things I’ve written about have been pretty personal but many of them were post crisis. As a church mother used to say, “I can’t tell all but I can tell some.” I didn’t want to tell that. Not THAT. It was too humiliating. Even though it was called a layoff, it felt like being fired. True, one is kinder than the other but the message is still the same – rejection. Translation: WE DON’T WANT YOU! Getouttahere! This was too close, too personal, too soon. Plus, I thought; how do I write and not give hope? How can I write about my struggle and not show resolution? How could I write and not say what was going on with me? I couldn’t write and not be real. For months, I sat trying to NOT tell this story. But this story cried out, Tell ME.
I’ve taught my children that setbacks are temporary and God usually brings about a way to place me in an even better situation as a result. As the song says, “Every round goes higher and higher …” While things may seem dismal, they usually work out for my good. Not usually, I hasten to amend, ALWAYS. So why the depression and the “valley lows”? Because it’s happening to me! And I don’t want it to (with the pouty lip). I don’t want it to be my time for trial, not again. But as Gandalf said to Frodo when he voiced much the same sentiment, “So do all who live to face such times, but that is not for them to decide.” No one wants tribulation. No one signs up for it. Argh.
As much as I wanted to go completely ostrich (you know, head in the sand), it came down, once again to being a role model. It took a conversation with a good friend to make me realize this. She said to me, “Loria, you are everything I’ve always wanted to be. When I think of being a good Christian, I think of you. When I look for an example, I look to you.” I was floored. Speechless. Humbled. Touched. She continued, “That’s why I believe you’re meant to help more than just me. As much as you do that for me, I know you’re meant to help more than me.” She brought home for me, something my sister has repeatedly said: It’s not about YOU.
My friend reminded me that she has watched, time and again, as I have hauled my life out of the ashes and started over. Each time, I come away from the experience as a shining example of His goodness and love. My life is an encouragement to others. So then, I must, as David once did, “Encourage myself in the Lord.” (1 Samuel 30:6) I must speak or prophecy to myself, my life, these dry bones and tell them to live again. This time I must be the role model and example for myself. I must show up for me. God chose me, for whatever reason, to go through this IN FRONT OF OTHERS. I know He will use this situation to get glory for himself and restore me.
Job said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I shall depart.” (Job 1:21) He understood a simple truth. It wasn’t his to begin with. It all belongs to God anyway, as my pastor says. Every child, every piece of land, every blessing – it’s all His to give or take away as he sees fit. Experience has taught me, He gives more than he takes. I’m confident that, in the end, I will have the job or career that God has meant for me. The one that will bless me and move me forward has my name written all over it.
So I pose the question again. Who can breathe new life into these dry bones? God can. He alone is able. He still sits on the throne. His arm is not shortened. He can still save and deliver. He still has an “S” on his chest. He is still my hero. He will rescue me… again.