I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately. I guess getting ready to move after four years of school has a way of doing that to someone. I graduated from seminary not too long ago, and as of the time of this writing, I do not exactly know where I am going. My wife has a job back home, and I will be transferring to a retail store, but no word on a ministry job just yet. It’s a very exciting time, but it is also a very uncertain time. I’m starting to get an idea of what Dickens meant when he wrote, “It was the best of time; it was the worst of times.”

I was reading Ezekiel 37 the other day, and my wife came in and asked me why I was studying. I don’t have classes anymore. I’m not required to read anything now. My response, “I finally have a chance to study what I want.” I’ve been thinking a lot about renewal lately. It is rather appropriate given that I’ve been worn down from studying pretty much since January of ’06. I haven’t taken a break from classes in well over a year. Immediately, my mind shifted to the Valley of the Dry Bones, which is found in Ezekiel 37. I’m still working through the chapter, but for the first time in a while, I felt like writing.

In Eze 37:2, the bones have been described as “very dry,” and we get the idea that this valley is full of these dry bones. To emphasize the fact that the bones are dry (in fact, the Hebrew word can also be translated, exceedingly) is to point out the total lack of life that is involved when it comes to the bones. A dry bone is about as far away from life as one can possibly get. It does not get any worse for a bone than this. This was the state of Israel. Israel was in exile at this time. Ezekiel is writing and doing ministry in Babylon among the Israelite exiles. They had gotten to the point where they were so far from life – so far from Yahweh – that they were nothing more than dry bones in a valley. However, this analogy does not end with Israel. This is also the state of those who are living life apart from Christ. In the gospel of John, Jesus says, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn 14:6). If no one comes to the Father without Jesus, and the Father is also described throughout Scripture as the Creator, then there is no life outside of one’s relationship with God. Sure, there’s physical life, there’s psychological life, and there’s emotional life, but that’s not the whole story. There’s more to life than just the physical, psychological and emotional. The most important part of life is our spiritual life. There is no true life without our spiritual life. We cannot live life to the fullest unless we pay attention to the spiritual aspect of our lives, and develop the relationship with our Creator.

So, Ezekiel is taken to this valley that is full of dry bones. The sheer number and the condition of the bones have to be rather disheartening for the prophet, but then he is asked a question. “Can these bones live?” God, the creator and sustainer of all life, is asking Ezekiel if these bones can live. Of all who could possibly asking this question, one would think that God would never ask a question such as this… unless He was trying to make a point. I think Ezekiel got it. His response, “O Lord God, you know” (Eze 37:3), or as the NIV puts it, “O Sovereign Lord, you alone know.” No matter the situation, no matter how bad things may look, there is one who can bring new life – even from the driest of bones. Ezekiel got it – with God all things are possible, and God tells Ezekiel to prophesy. God tells Ezekiel to tell the bones to “hear the word of the Lord” (Eze 37:4). This is how they start to come to life – they hear the Word. In the beginning God speaks and creation happens. Every step along the way is guided by the word of God. So, what happens when Ezekiel shares the word of God with these very dry bones? There is a rattling and the bones come together, then the sinews, then the flesh, and then the skin, but there is not life just yet. Life does not happen for the bones until the breath enters into them. The Hebrew word used for breath is a fantastic word. It is ru’ach, which means breath, or spirit. In other words, the spirit of God is what ultimately brings the bones to life.

The movement from dry bones to new life is a process. There is no reason why God couldn’t have brought them back immediately. As Ezekiel made clear, with God anything is possible. It seems as though there is something important about the process, something about the journey that is key on the path to wholeness. We live in a society now that wants immediate results. We can get fast food when we’re hungry. We have gas stations and Wal-Marts that are open 24 hours a day, so we can get whatever we want whenever we want. Immediate gratification is a value in our society. We also have the other extreme.

There are parts of our society that focus more on the process and totally forget about the results. I pass a certain church on my way to work, and they usually have some banner out front that makes me wonder about the kinds of things that they teach. For a long time, they had one that said, “Real faith is about searching for answers, not presuming to know them.” You see, they place the emphasis on the quest. They emphasize the journey to the extent that it becomes what is important; it becomes the content of faith. This is just as mistaken as placing all the emphasis on the results. God has done a lot of work on me over the years, and very rarely has any big work been done immediately. Often it is a long, drawn out process because of my own stubbornness. So, I guess when the question comes up – the journey or the destination – what are we to say? I think the best answer is, “Yes, and yes.” There is a delicate balance that we have to maintain between emphasizing the journey and emphasizing the destination. We go on a road trip so that we can get somewhere, but we also go on a road trip to enjoy some of the scenery along the way. The path of spiritual renewal is both a process and a destination. The dry bones could have suddenly come to life by the hand of God, but He brought them to life through a process.

Just some musings from a traveling pilgrim.