Lately I have been thinking about dry bones. I have been feeling a bit dry myself. Perhaps it is the number of things that have been rapidly changing in my life, the busyness of the Lenten season, the stresses of being a pastor of a smaller church in a small town, or simply the constant headache from not wearing my glasses while my new cornea heals… Regardless I have been feeling like a bunch of dried out bones.
One of the books I have been reading lately has been “A Guide to Retreat for All God’s Shepherds” by Reuben P. Job. In that book, a poem by Joyce Rupp is quoted named “Dry Bones.” In that poem, the following stanzas are recorded:
tiredness grounds me
into a quiet stupor
of the spirit.
I yearn to be inspired,
to be lifted up, set free
beyond the place of deadness.
the struggle goes on,
and you and I, God,
we exist together
Joyce Rupp goes on to state her belief in God feels stronger than ever despite the challenges she is facing. It is quite beautiful. I recommend both Joyce Rupp’s works and Reuben Job’s book because they each have their own beauty. I think that beauty is quite apparent in the words above…
I share these words because I know what it feels like to have tiredness wear me into a quiet stupor of the soul. I feel the dryness of my bones in a place of deadness. I yearn, I call, I seek, and yet here God and I exist together. The dryness is overwhelming sometimes.
Surely, the biblical quote you might lift up to me is the offer to the woman at the well. Doesn’t Jesus offer a living water that quenches this thirst? As a pastor, shouldn’t you (of all people!) know that these dry patches aren’t necessary when the living water dwells with us? Shouldn’t I know why these patches take place and be able to just walk through them into a bright future without a bit of dryness?
No. I do not know why there are dry places in life. Paul (in Romans 5:3-5) might tell us that suffering leads to endurance, character, and ultimately a hope that does not disappoint, but even with those words strike me as not explaining why there are dry places. The dry places may lead to this blessing, but I cannot tell you perfectly why any of us face dryness. Couldn’t there be an easier way?
Ultimately, all I can tell you is that almost everyone faces dry places in life. Almost every person sooner or later finds themselves in a place where they have moved away from the mountain top experiences, entered the valleys, and started wondering what happened and why. It is something that has happened to everyone from Mother Theresa to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
So, how do we live through these moments? I think Joyce Rupp hits it right on the head. We exist together with God in the dryness. We call out in prayer, we yearn, and when words fail us, we exist together with God.
One story I did not personally touch on during Holy Week was that one moment where Jesus says some simple words. Jesus says “I am thirsty” (John 19:28). John says that it is to fulfill the scriptures, but even so, it is a simple statement. Jesus is thirsty. The source of the living water feels thirst.
I can co-exist with Jesus in my dryness because I believe Jesus has been dried out too. Jesus knew thirst. Am I being too literal? Possibly, but I imagine the prayer in Gethsemane was a moment of dry thirst. Jesus prayed “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). Go further back to the story of the temptation. If Jesus wasn’t actually hungry and thirsty when the devil offered rocks like loaves of bread, then was he truly tempted? In my dryness, I see the image of the invisible God. The image of God shown in Jesus is an image that knows difficulty.
I am pretty dry these days. I’ll still stay here with Jesus. I invite all of you who struggle with dryness to spend time with the One who knows dryness. Christ came, Christ rose, and Christ will come again. Even if we have to wait in the desert, Christ will come again.