“Every now and then I seem to dream these dreams
Where the dead ones live and the hurt ones heal
Touching that miraculous circumstance
Where the blind ones see and the dry bones dance”
Mark Heard’s song, “Dry Bones Dance,” has long been one of my favorites. It, of course, alludes to Ezekiel 37, where Ezekiel sees a valley full of dry bones, which God miraculously restores to life. The image is wild, improbable and maybe just a little frightening.
However, it is also a vivid picture of something that is beyond hope – these aren’t just dead bodies after all, they are bones, and dry ones at that – being restored and blessed.
It is a vision that often comes to my mind when I look at a devastated watershed, and the people who are visibly suffering from its barrenness. In countless places, I have walked over hillsides that are dry, devoid of topsoil, with almost nothing growing. Sometimes the eroded slopes are scorched from burning. The inhabitants struggle with hunger and malnutrition, often eating only once a day. Hope is hard to find.
Yet I have also had the incredible privilege of seeing life breathed into these communities, of seeing them come alive. Because of our work in watershed restoration and agroecology, this transformation from death to life is often very visible. That which appeared dead begins to grow again. Streams begin to flow. Trees appear. Crop yields increase. Birds come back. The land flourishes. As the land flourishes the people start to flourish.
However, maybe the most exciting renewal is less immediately visible. Hope returns. Community members realize that they have what it takes to change their situation and forge a better future. In Ezekiel 37, God says that once the dry bones come to life, “Then you will know that I am the Lord.” Watching watersheds and villages come to life, I have often been overwhelmed by God’s incredible redemptive power. I have heard many of our local partners express the same sentiments. Then – together – we have known that He is Lord.
As exciting as it is, the redemption that we see physically and even spiritually is just a foretaste of what is promised. Easter is a great reminder of that promise of something even greater and far more lasting. Once again I drift into the words of Mark Heard:
And I long, long, long
For a world without end
The kind of thing that I’ve never seen
but in my dreams
He is risen! He is risen indeed.