Barren. Parched. Empty. I think of the desert as I sit looking out over our backyard. Half of it is green, a carpet of grass ready for little feet to run and play on. The other half feels rugged and rocky underneath eager feet. Harsh rains and hail pelted us this winter and water would stand in the shady, low places killing whatever had grown there. The grass got little nourishment from the sun and stayed bogged down with water, unable to replenish itself this spring.
Barren. Parched. Empty. I think of a valley of dry bones as I sit, trying to quiet my soul. I started writing again this year in an attempt to quiet my spirit, to take the swirling thoughts, the anxieties and the chaos, and mold them into thoughts directed at God. I have tried to find a time to write in the last week, a half finished story waiting to be completed and posted to my blog. But my soul has felt as battered as the dry places of our yard, and I have been unable to find the words, unable to even put myself into that vulnerable place of sitting down with a pen to put my heart down on paper.
All week long I felt like I was drowning under standing water, unable to see clearly through the murky mind and heart weighing me down. The little storms that came into my life this week shouldn’t have so thoroughly derailed me. A spring cold made me groggy, then my five year old fell and got a slight concussion, throwing my whole week a bit off-kilter. Work got overwhelming. Discouragement weighed on me as well as I tried to push the date to the back of my mind. I had submitted stories to two magazines I felt really confident that I was a good fit for, and this week the deadline to hear if they were publishing me loomed ahead. Each day I didn’t hear back made me feel a bit lower, a little more unsure of my calling to raise my voice for God in this noisy online world.
Little storms, surely nothing that should have swamped my soul and left me in a barren wasteland. But I found myself in the old familiar territory of anxiety and discouragement when I didn’t cry out to God in the midst of all these swirling storms in my soul. I wallowed in them, let them build up until they blocked out the nourishment my soul so desperately needed from the One who promises to carry our burdens if we will let Him. The light couldn’t break through and my words dried up, my attitude was bleak, and I couldn’t bring myself to write the story of hope I had been working on. It felt like a lie.
This writing journey was supposed to be a poultice to an aching soul, not create more anxiety. But my self-imposed deadline of blogging once a week added to my already full to-do list and when I couldn’t find the words, I felt like a failure. A fraud writing about faith when mine was feeling so weak. A voice no one wanted to hear when those I hoped would publish my work didn’t even respond with a “no.”
The contrast in our backyard is startling. There is literally a line in the grass where everything on one side is dead and on the other side is thriving. But my husband has been working hard digging a ditch to divert the standing water, tilling up the parched earth, planting seed, watering it, waiting for it to grow. And if we keep off that area to let the vulnerable seeds take root, give it the nourishment it needs, we hope to see new life springing up soon. Hope lies in those seeds, hope that life can come again.
The people of Israel, the valley of dry bones said, “Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off” (Ezekiel 37:11) because they saw what was right in front of them, their captivity, their current situation. They didn’t look to a God who could deliver them, could change their circumstances, could bring hope in what felt hopeless. But the Lord, through Ezekiel, said to them, “Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.” (Ezekiel 37:4-5). GOD will breathe new life into us. His Word, His Spirit breathing life and hope into us, is the only thing that can revive us. Anxiety, Busyness, Stress, Discouragement, Unforeseen Obstacles. These will derail us, if we let them, from the path that leads to life, to fruit borne for Him. We will dry up and wither like a sun-scorched yard faster than we’d like to believe if we don’t seek Him in the midst of troubles. But there is hope. He will bring us to life if we let Him breathe on us.
So, I keep writing these words. I hope they bring me closer to the path He wants me on. I try to look to Him and not to whatever circumstances are blown in on the winds of the days I am living in. And I keep believing that no matter how dry I feel, hope is not gone. New life is waiting in the Sovereign Lord.
Join the Conversation: Have you been (or are you) in a dry and barren place? What have you done or can you do to seek the Lord in the midst of these places? How has He shown you new life in a place of barrenness?