Are you a believer? In zombies, I mean. In that utterly fascinated, can’t turn away but totally can’t bear to look, peeking out from behind your fingers at the gory, horrifying images kind of believer. My seminary profs labeled it ‘fascination with abomination’ - when the horrors of this life, the frightening, the gory, the abhorred and abhorring, the terrified and the terrifying- capture our attention and we cannot break away, cannot escape its grasp.
Well, maybe they aren’t exactly called zombies, but the Bible has some remarkably similar imagery. I’m not gonna lie, there is some stuff in the Bible that even Stephen King couldn’t have dreamed up. God has a pretty amazing imagination and I’m pretty sure He can imagine anything He wants, zombies or not. (If you like zombies and horror movies, you can read more about some of the imagery here, in this nifty article by Michael Gilmour). We don’t talk about in church much, but it’s there. Right there, in this Bible of ours.
There is this crazy, horrifying, can’t-turn-away zombie-esque story in the Bible that speaks to me. It hits me in the gut, in hits me in the heart, and leaves a mark on my soul. You might know it from an cliche of a children’s song, but the prophet Ezekiel experienced it as a kind of zombie apocalypse, a frightening, gory, can’t turn away, can’t get away kind of a vision – and it was all God’s idea.
I cannot bear to watch horror movies. I hid under the covers when my husband watched Kujo. I still have nightmares of Freddie, and Sweeney Todd turned my stomach sour in the first five minutes. But this story – this little piece of history that is just one small part of His Story, I cannot break away from. It’s the Valley of Dry Bones.
I love this story because it shows me that God doesn’t always do as He’s told; He doesn’t always fit that mold we made for Him- He is an imaginative cinematographer, a detailed Creator, a hope-instiller. Ezekiel trained His whole life to be a priest so he could serve God. And in that apportionment of history, in that little time-lapsed view we see what an honor this was for Ezekiel and His family. And when he was just about 30 years old, when Ezekiel was just about to step into that honorable position of serving God as a priest, God gave him a new assignment. Ezekiel was to be a prophet instead. Ezekiel kissed his honor goodbye and stepped into the unpopular role God had been designing for him all along. Isn’t that just like God? To do something surprising to us but something He had planned all along, something beyond our imaginations.
Fast forward a bit, to a time when the nation of Israel felt utterly hopeless. A whole nation of people without hope. Feeling alone. Feeling abandoned and rejected by God. But God was up to something, and he showed Ezekiel what He was up to through a horrifying, can’t-turn-away zombie kind of a story. God showed Ezekiel a valley of dried up old bones. Maybe you’ve watched enough horror movies that a valley full of old, sun-bleached, dried up bones wouldn’t make you a bat a pretty little eye. But to Ezekiel, who was taught his whole life that he, a dignified, ceremonially clean priest-to-be, must never come in contact with a dead body, it was the worst. It was stomach-souring, hide under the covers, peek behind his fingers, vomitous stench, kind of awful. And then God told Ezekiel to talk to those bones, to tell them to get up. And then those bones did the unthinkable, the ultimate, silent-screaming-inducing kind of a thing that only an old skeleton could do. Those old dead bones got up. And they grew muscles. And veins and arteries and tendons and organs and everything else that makes the difference between a skeleton and person. Those dead bones became living, breathing, hoping people. And this entire, horrifying, stomach-souring show was so Ezekiel would know without any kind of question that there was HOPE for his nation, that God was going to bring that dead and deathly ill nation back to life. Ezekiel became far more than just a priest that day, he became a hope-instiller for an entire nation that needed to reconnect with God.
I hate to admit that I have a few dead bones around – dried up dreams, hopes that fell by the wayside. Plans that went wrong, horribly wrong. There’s a few spots in my life that have felt abandoned, rejected, dead. There are skeletons of failures tucked away in a few dusty closets, buried beneath smelly old shoes and lost mittens. But God is the hope-instiller, the breather-of-new-life into dead bones. The resurrector of people and broken plans and dead dreams. And this story is exactly what I needed, this gory, horror movie created by a loving God to show me that nothing is too dead and old for Him to breathe into it new life.
God, the instiller of hope, the imaginative designer of our stories, is breathing new life into some of my old dead and zombied dreams in surprising ways. What old bones, and dreams, and zombies, and plans, are you hiding away that need new life?