As 2020 kicked off, I spent some time asking God what He wanted me to focus on for the year. Usually, it’s just one word that represents so much more than just a word. I’ve been given various words over the past few years, many of which were personal challenges, a family focus, or a reminder of what’s important. This year, though, I received something very different (which I’d later find out was in keeping with the rest of 2020). The Lord gave me the passage of Ezekiel 37, which is about the Valley of Dry Bones. When He first pressed it upon my heart, I was a little confused as to what the Valley of Dry Bones had to do with me. So, I kept seeking the Lord and trying to confirm this was really what He wanted me to dive into. He continued to bring this section of scripture into my life in various ways. I ended up finally accepting this was a place I needed to study in the library of the Bible.
And I did. I read and re-read the passage multiple times. I scanned and studied commentaries from varying perspectives. I prayed for my eyes to be open to the truth and for my heart to lean into what God wanted to show me. And the story I thought I knew came alive in a whole new way. It made such an impact on me that I wrote a whole blog on those discoveries earlier in the year. (You can catch it here). I even had an opportunity to share a portion of it with a trauma healing group that I was helping to lead at our church. I saw the depth of hurt they carried and the hopelessness in their faces and felt prompted by the Lord to remind them of Ezekiel 37. That passage was written for a different audience yet there is so much for us to glean in there too. It’s about restoring Israel, but it also points to the God who makes all things new. God can breathe life into any situation and rekindle our hope and bring life to lifeless things. He has the power to renew, restore, and revive.
It was such a joy to share my passion for this passage and my confidence in God’s ability with this precious group of women. And, I thought, “Well, that’s it! That must be the reason why God put this scripture on my heart.” Then came the rest of 2020. The pandemic, shut downs, mask ordinances, school closures, school-at-home, time at home, LOTS of time at home, cancelled vacations and trips, restrictions and social distancing, church re-imagined, and a pause in ranch programming was enough to make me feel like I was in a valley of dry bones. Life was not going as expected and definitely not as planned.
After the break in programming, we were able to return to one-on-one mentoring sessions at Bright Side. Being outside and keeping numbers small were certainly in our ability to keep kids and families safe and still be able to offer opportunities to work through their pain and find hope and healing in Jesus. And what we discovered in the return to sessions were deeper conversations and a desire for help. The isolation for many of the kids and teens we work with aggravated and added to their existing struggles, and they were eager to get out of the house, hug a horse, and share their heart hurts with someone willing to listen. And, wow, the depth and extent of their pain is both heart-breaking and, at times, overwhelming. A group of siblings processing a difficult separation and divorce of their parents on top of previous trauma. A teen who was molested by a step-father and not believed by her own mother. A girl wanting to let go of cutting, yet not sure where to begin. A set of sisters whose father is in rehab for substance abuse. Another teen struggling the fact that her 16 year old mother didn’t know what to do with her and left her in a dumpster as a baby. So. Much. Pain. They are much like the scattered Hebrews in the time of Ezekiel. They feel lost and dried up, like a bunch of bones on a valley floor.
And yet, God. He comes into their stories like a valiant hero, yet this is not a fairytale. This is real and true. He can breathe life into their situations and circumstances and bring restoration, hope, and transformation. Some of those kids and teens make that move to readily allow God to move in their hearts and lives during their time at the ranch. Others are still in the process of opening up to the possibility. And there are a few that are too angry to even consider making room for God to work - which is okay, because our God is a really big God. He can handle their questions, their hesitation, and their anger. The truth is shared, the seeds are planted, and the choice is offered. He will keep pursuing their hearts, and we trust them into His hands. So we pray, and we believe. We ask the Lord to do what only He can do: to breathe life into the next generation - to bring those dry bones back to life, restore all hope, and help them dance in the desert.