A couple years ago my extended family went on vacation together to celebrate my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. My immediate family arrived a day after the rest. After getting settled in, I was playing wiffleball with my nephews in the yard when a foul ball meandered its way through an opening under a porch.
We all turned and looked toward the porch where the ball disappeared. No one moved. My nephews began to argue amongst themselves about who was responsible to get the ball. The fielders were convinced the hitter should go. Of course the hitter thought it was the fielders’ job.
As the accusations flew, I wondered if they were scared of getting a bit dirty or more likely of the darkness in the belly of the porch. So I encouraged the nephew nearest the porch to crawl under and get the ball. He refused and said, “I’m not getting it. There’s a skeleton under there.”
I scrunched my face into a disbelieving scowl thinking my nephew was attempting to play me for a fool, hoping I would take pity on him and get the ball. Even after my further prodding, he would not budge. So I got down on my hands and knees, turned on my phone light, and peeked under the porch. Sure enough, there was a skeleton. A human skeleton.
My nephews knew about it because they had arrived the day before, explored around like kids do when they get to a new place, and they discovered the skeleton. I will admit it sent shivers down my neck and shoulders when I first saw it. Especially there in the dim light under the porch, it was freaky. What was a full human skeleton doing under the porch of this vacation home? Weird, right?
Upon closer inspection, it looked like a Halloween decoration that the owner was storing under his porch for October when he would display it to freak out trick-or-treaters. I still didn’t want to crawl near it, so I used a bat to reach the ball and slide it out. Then I scurried backwards into the light as quick as I could!
Why do skeletons scare us? It’s obvious, I suppose. They are the epitome of images of death, and not just any death, but human death. Skeletons force us to deal with the reality of our humanity. Life is not all there is. There’s also death. There is the dark side, the pain, the hurt, the frailty that is part and parcel of the human experience. We are truly bags of bones. From dust we were created, and to dust we shall return.
With that introduction, you might be wondering if next week’s five-part blog series on Ezekiel 37:1-14 is going to be a dark one. Admittedly, it starts that way. Over the course of 36 chapters, we have learned that Ezekiel is a most unusual book of the Bible. When God commissioned Ezekiel to be a prophet to his fellow 10,000 Israelites, with whom he was in exile in Babylon, little did he know what his life would become. The bizarre visions, the prophetic skits, stares, and stories, punctuating long periods of silence. Now in chapter 37, God takes Ezekiel on a vision journey that is perhaps the most famous, enduring story of the entire book of Ezekiel: a journey in a vision to a valley of dry bones.
There God walked Ezekiel among not just one skeleton, but through a valley filled with thousands and thousands and thousands of bones. Why would God take Ezekiel to that place in a vision? What does it mean? While it starts off dark, it turns out to be one of the most exciting and hopeful promises in the entire Bible, one that we need today, especially when we feel inside like the skeleton, dry, dead and without hope. See for yourself by reading Ezekiel 37:1-4 ahead of time, and then check back in to the blog on Monday!