Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Walking Death Through a Valley of Dry Bones

I've always loved this passage from Ezekial 37. I'm sure a lot of people do, being such a powerful illustration of God's life-giving power over death. Wouldn't it be awesome to see the movie version?!

While Ezekial's vision was a metaphor for Israel's state of exile away from the Promised Land, we also personally experience times of exile when our faith feels as dry as those bones. I've been in such a valley for quite some time. In fact, at times I wonder if my Christian walk is merely a trail through one long valley. But there are moments that come to mind when I was overjoyed with God's love, even to the point of being pained during Adoration at not being able to see more of God than His revelation through faith in the Eucharist. That was probably my last "high point," when I managed to meander off this one long trail to a side trail that took me up a mountain... and what I beautiful sight!

Of course, instead of continuing along the ridge to a higher peak, I turned me right around and found that ol' familiar trail in the valley. Now I look back and I can still see that peak off in the distance and I wonder, how would life be different today if I had stayed up there?

It's difficult to imagine this is God's will for anyone to meander through a valley of dry bones for years on end. I don't think it is, but I am reassured by Ezekial's vision that until our fate is sealed forever when our mortal bodies die that our bones can never be too dry for God to bring us back to life.

There's a saying that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. For years, I've been hoping and expecting that holiness would magically infuse itself into my soul or that I'd somehow -- between now and when I'm 80 -- magically become a saint while living the same life. I've only grown frustrated, depressed, and even apathetic. My co-workers even noted that I seemed like "walking death" several months ago (I hope they were exaggerating, just a little?).

There is no magic formula, but one stimulus that greatly encouraged me recently was reading this in Thomas A'Kempis' Imitation of Christ:

O my brother, lose not thy confidence of making progress towards the things of the Spirit; still thou hast time, the hour is not yet past. Why wilt thou defer thy good purpose from day to day? Arise and in this very instant begin, and say, Now is the time to be doing, now is the time to be fighting, now is the fit time to be amending myself.

Thus, I committed to bi-weekly Confession. Right now I'm nearly a week overdue, but I'm going this Saturday. Yeah, I'm becoming a crazy man, but otherwise I'd go crazy.

But the thought that's occurred to me just now is I also have something to look forward to in my future on this earth. It's a near-term goal, but in December I will fly off to Chile for five weeks to learn Spanish and Hispanic Catholic ministry. What I'll do after that, I'm not yet sure, but I'm learning that without a vision that drives our passion and desire to live, we have no reason to find a way out of the valley for long. Going up to the peaks seems pointless if it's only for ourselves. True Christianity imitates Christ on the Cross: oriented outward and giving completely to God and whoever He puts in our lives.

St. Francis' prayer is true: "It is in giving that we receive."