Ezekiel’s vision opens with him walking among the ruins of a catastrophic event. You can almost feel the crackling bones beneath his feet as he’s led by the Spirit to survey the desolation. The parched valley filled with dry and brittle bones strewn around him creates a picture of utter hopelessness and defeat. My imagination takes me to a post-apocalyptic landscape like the film, The Road, with bleached backgrounds and raining ash.
There are times in our lives when it feels like God’s brought us to a place of utter hopelessness and defeat. Like Ezekiel, it’s often in those impossible moments when we’re given a glimpse of both the way things really are as well as what they could be. We feel out of control. It’s no accident that our language takes that phrase ‘out of control’ to express a kind of loss of sanity or fit of rage. Because in both cases, we’re engaged in a last stitch effort to create our own solutions. We’re in a dead scramble. And when our best efforts finally fall short, we arrive at the valley of dry bones, where God can speak and bring life.
I’m not saying that you can expect all your efforts to fail. What I am saying is that there are moments when a severe mercy engulfs us, and though God seems absent, He’s directing us to a place of quietness and still, a death-like silence where we can finally hear, a Holy Saturday. It’s Jacob crossing the ford of the Jabbok wrestling with God, his hip and his life dislocated, holding on until he hears a blessing. It’s Elijah at his wits end, hiding away in a cave, fearing for his life, and discovering that he can hear the whisper above the storm.
It’s here, in the valley of vision, that God reveals His goodness. Even when things around us fall apart. It’s here that we come face to face with the realization that His Kingdom is a Kingdom of Hope–a Kingdom that brings resurrection to our death, a paradoxical Kingdom that breathes life into our collapsed souls.
Valley of Vision*
Lord, high and holy, meek and lowly, Thou hast brought me to the valley of vision,
where I live in the depths but see thee in the heights; hemmed in by mountains of sin I behold thy glory.
Let me learn by paradox
that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart, that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit, that the repenting soul is the victorious soul, that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown, that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.
Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells, and the deeper the wells the brighter thy stars shine;
Let me and thy light in my darkness, thy life in my death,
thy joy in my sorrow, thy grace in my sin,
thy riches in my poverty thy glory in my valley.
*Opening prayer from The Valley of Vision, a collection of Puritan poems compiled by Arthur Bennett and published by Banner of Truth.