When Dry Bones Breathe
When I got her text, Lily was yet a theory. We were still steps away from having even seen her picture for the first time.
I had climbed into bed, eyelids heavy. We were weeks into the circuitous route which would bring us to Lily, a path that meant lots of late-night email correspondence and wee-hours-of-the-morning prayers. Like a woman whose body was preparing to introduce the world to her child, and her child to the world, I was attuned to any of the “baby’s” movements. The text woke me up.
My friend in Virginia had sent verses, with little explanation. They were impressed on her for us. For now. For this child or these children that would soon be ours.
It was a passage from Ezekiel 37 which I’d read many times, but never in this light. God spoke to Ezekiel, gave him vision of a valley of dry bones and told him to speak life. This man-of-flesh became man of God as he spoke what was not into being. The bones came together and gained flesh. They breathed, they received God’s Spirit, and they became warriors.
These words about Israel were also for me.
God said to Ezekiel, said to Israel, and whispered to me through my friend that night: They indeed say, ‘Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!’ Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves.” (37:11-12).
Those bones were my children. Dry, empty, broken from their source, hopeless — but offered flesh by one word from a weak man representing a strong God.
And I was called to be that weak man. To prophesy — to not only believe, but speak His promises despite what my eyes and my mind might tell me.
Weeks later, we learned of Lily and months later, I held her for the first time. In many respects she was that vacuous field of bones. A life, waiting to be written-on. Muscles formed from birth, but without shape — she had atrophied. Years existing, but not really living, had taken their toll. And her almost-eight years of empty challenged my greatest fears. Could He heal even her? Was she forever damaged?
The very thing to which God called me — this life, this child waiting to breathe deeply, and the others that would be her siblings — would require me to traverse over and through fear.
Perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18). It’s that simple. If I was ever going to learn how to lean into that Perfect Love for which I had spent nearly a decade asking for and a lifetime seeking out, I would need to participate in the ending of its nemesis’ role in my life. Or, if I was ever going to know Him as that perfect Lover, I must expect that He would go to great lengths to remove my fear.
So, He led me to adoption.
When I think about the campaign in my heart which has formed for not only adoption, but also for adopting older children, I realize it has something to do with them, but everything to do with Him.
Both the anecdotes and the research point to the reality that the longer a child lives as orphan the less likely they are to live a life one might call “normal”. I can’t ignore this. In fact, my mind — prone to wander — dances around these stories and makes cases for my fear out of the statistics.
But God offered me a way out. He told me to stare at the very stark reality — a valley of dry bones that would be my family — and to breathe and to speak the life of the Father over it, expecting that He works a better way.
He knew I would do it weakly. He knew I would be trembling. But He used, even, my feeble yes.
A few weeks ago, I found Lily holed up in her closet during their morning reading time. She’d scooted in the stool from the bathroom as her chair and had folded herself in between the clothes and the shoes, hunched over her Bible. When I asked her what she was doing she said “Mommy, I just want to be with Jesus.” This, after her previous night’s bedtime prayer: “I want to know You more than I know You now.”
Between April, when she was taken in by the woman who found her for us, and now, I have watched flesh form around what appeared to be, at first glance, long-dead.
Lily is learning to feel.
More than just afternoon squeals on her bike, this child has demonstrated that none of her faculties are beyond restoration. She is coming alive. She’s shed tears over her sin, sewn clothes for the baby-doll that wasn’t hers, hugged the sister she hurt with unkind words, and trumpeted her little brother’s successes over her own.
God is giving her back those lost years. More than that, He is making her our delight.
And while there are still very-real moments where all that’s been lost rests thick and heavy in our home, and there are still many days I’m not sure I can face it all, the overture is this: our God heals.
And on this I can now more easily focus.
On Him I will focus.
Because this journey for me was not just about those dry bones. It was about receiving His promise and using my (weak) voice. Over and over again. Over her, over me, over us.
Many of you, like me, have been given opportunity to walk through your own valley of dry bones, the place where your worst fears reside. You might be prone to staring at the remains on the ground with great uncertainty that they might ever take shape. But I can say with great confidence: His love conquers.
He wants more for us.
He is more for us.
Photo compliments of Mandie Joy Photography.