Be mindful of your breathing. Take a large breath, hold it for a few seconds, and release as you reflect on the Breath of God from which we came.
Ezekiel 37:1-14 (NRSV)
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.”
So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. 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.
Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. 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.”
As a pediatric hospital chaplain, I wish I could tell you that children never die, that terrible diagnoses do not come, and horrible accidents never happen…but they do.
In the days leading to that final inevitability, I am called to stand with parents in their grief and to hear their laments of sorrow. While their exact words might change from room to room, the essence of what they are desperately asking is this: “Can these bones live?”
Ezekiel answered God by saying, “Only you know,” and Ezekiel’s answer gives us hope. For in those difficult moments—even in the ones when we know the story will end sadly—the reassurance that God knows the story is often the only comfort I can give. God knows the story of this child, has known it longer that even we have. God has been part of this child’s past, is with her at the bedside in this terrible moment, and will be in the future to meet this little one, no matter what.
The Hebrew word for wind, breath, and Spirit is the same: ruáh. When God says to God’s people, “I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live,” we can rest assured that God’s presence—even in the worst moments of our lives—is as close to us as our very breath.
God, you are close to the brokenhearted. Remind us of your presence even in the midst of sorrow and moments of the unknown. Amen.
Go with God.