Yesterday I was in the car and a familiar tune came on, one our youth choir had just sung beautifully in Sunday's service over the weekend. I'd sung along to the chorus so often, I knew it well.
But somehow that moment in the car was the first time I made the conscious decision to think through the verses. And what I heard broke me.
"Through the eyes of men it seems
There's so much we have lost
As we look down the road
Where all the prodigals have walked . . ."
Y'all, I'm serious when I say I made the conscious decision to think through this, I was picturing the words Lauren Daigle's voice was working through. We, as the church, see through our broken lenses that we have lost so much - we're looking down this path those who have turned away have chosen to follow. We, as the church, are losing them, these prodigals, by droves, and we're just watching them go. That's hard. And her next words are where I just broke into tears right there behind the steering wheel - not slow, sweet tears, but real, hard tears.
"One by one
The enemy has whispered lies
And led them off as slaves."
Because this unfortunate, heart-wrenching truth is one that has been tearing me apart for a long time. Our enemy is devouring our culture and he's doing it through crafty little lies. The ones that sound so beautiful and so noble, but are LIES. And through these lies he is carrying the prodigals of the church away as slaves. Can you picture it?! Because that mental picture is what brought my tears. Brothers and sisters in Christ chained to the lies they've been told, carried off to be slaves - to fear, to sin, to brokenness. They have been captured.
And we're not fighting back.
We are a church of dry bones.
Bones that have dried up through yet even more lies. Lies that say this life is all about me, and my comfort and my safety. Lies that say my time is mine, my body is mine, my money is mine. Sometimes they're veiled with words like, "I just need to think about my family" or "I need to protect my time." And I'm not saying those are never valid points - but maybe they've sometimes been used as excuses to keep us from doing the hard stuff - the stuff that makes life a little more difficult than we'd prefer or require a little more of our time, energy, resources than we're really comfortable with. Things that demand we look someone else in the eye and say, you are worth everything I am and everything I have on the sole basis that you are a human being created in the image of God and He has called me to serve and not to fear. But as we take the wide path, around the broken and hurting, we take the path that leaves us dry and useless.
If you're not sure where this reference to dry bones comes from, it's a fascinating portion of the Old Testament - the kind of text that makes people say, "Wait, that's in the Bible?!" The passage can be found in Ezekiel, chapter 37, verses 1-14. Read it all, if you have the time. Basically the Spirit of God brings the prophet Ezekiel into a valley filled with bones. On God's command, Ezekiel prophesies to the bones and, the Bible tells us, the bones rattled together, bone to bone, developed sinews, and flesh and were covered with skin. Verse 10 says, "So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army."
In case you missed it - he was in a valley of dead and broken bones that grew flesh and stood, alive, as an army. I mean, this happened, y'all. That's crazy and awesome.
And what's more, the Lord does this as a visual for Ezekiel to share with the people of Israel. They are these dry bones that will be breathed into with the breath of life and they will live.
This is what the song is stating when it says, "So with the faith you've given us we'll step into the valley unafraid . . . up out of the ashes let us see an army rise. We call out to dry bones, Come alive." As the prophet Ezekiel did, let us call out the dry brokenness of our Church and breathe the breath of God over them.
And this is what our Church today - the body of Christ - needs so desperately. We need this breath of life. We need to allow God to flesh us out so we can stand as an army. There is a battle to be waged. There are prisoners of war enslaved to the lies whispered to them and we, as the Church, as an army, need to stand up and not be afraid to do the hard living that battles what culture is telling us is right. Let us call out these lies and rescue the captives in Christ's name.
"O dry bones, hear the Word of the Lord." - Ezekiel 37:1-14