Belonging in The Valley of Bones

I am writing this from the sun-soaked porch off the back of my New York City apartment. And that is a sentence I’ve been wanting to write for about five months. 

I’m finally home, and it’s.. all of the adjectives at once, as expected. 

When I first saw the skyline on the drive in from the airport I burst into tears. That view always tugs – something about wonder and possibility and feeling small and belonging – but it pierced this time. 

I’ve never questioned the meaning of home more than I have in last 18 months, in every possible sense. This city doesn’t answer that question in full, but that night it felt pretty damn close.

I walked back into my apartment afraid to find (roaches, rats, subway creatures) the ghost of a former version of myselfAnd I did

Her winter coat lay open on the bed without shape, looking foolish against the July heat. Her dishes stood emaciated in the dishwasher. Her journal sat on the bedside table holding a million questions I don’t ask anymore and a layer of dust. She was everywhere.

But it didn’t haunt me the way I thought it would. I didn’t shove all her things under the bed and try to drown her out with defiant proclamations of the “new me.” 

I sat across from her on the opposite end of our couch and we held hands and prayed. 

Then I thanked her for what she went through for me. For surviving that winter, for asking those millions of questions in frantic, unreadable cursive so I wouldn’t have to today. So I could sit on this sunny porch in July and let the sun soak into my skin.

The funny thing about healing is that you don’t know it’s happening. 

It isn’t linear, it certainly isn’t prescriptive. What you think will help usually doesn’t. What you can’t control – namely, time and grace – is pretty much all that will. 

I’m not naïve enough to believe that healing on this side of heaven is final. I’m “healed” from the time I broke my leg in college. I can run, jump, dance just fine but there’s a titanium rod in my femur that aches every now and then without warning. 

We don’t get “over” the big things. We just move forward with whatever limp they’ve given us, thankful for lessons learned, eyes fixed on the day when all is made new

But I’m also not jaded enough to ignore the good gift of grace when it’s been given. 

And as I settle back into this home, covered in the silt of time passed, filled with the artifacts of a girl in grief, I realize how much joy, how much peace, how much hope I have today that I so desperately sought back then. 

“The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valleyit was full of bones.
And he led me around among them, and behold, they were very many on the surface of the valley and behold they were very dry.
And he said to me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’ And I answered, ‘O Lord God, you know.’” (Ezekiel 37:1-4)

I don’t know how to look ahead right now. (How futile does it feel to even try these days?) I have no idea what’s next for me – will NYC still be livable this fall when my lease ends? Will the Lord call me elsewhere? Will the world look like anything we still recognize?

But amidst all the unknowns of the future, I wanted to take this moment to look briefly, gratefully even, at the past and to declare that God is faithful. 

He brought me to the middle of the valley. I stood amongst the dry bones. He asked me if they could live and I said, God, you know. 

Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.” (Ezekiel 37: 5-6)

I’ve written about the valley and I’ve shared glimpses here and there of the bones. So, as the sun sets behind me – as the skyline sings belonging and I limp about my apartment clearing dust and lighting ALL the good candles  – I had to write about the breath of life

God is faithful. These last 18 months have been impossible. Everything seemed broken. Everything was dry. But I write today without answers, without perfect resolution, without a circumstantial “happy ending” or a pretty little bow to proclaim that there is new life in these bones because Jesus is King

“You shall live, and you shall know that I am the Lord.”

May we always, always know.

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