Stephanie Rische

Stubbing My Toe on Grace

When Skeletons Come to Life… September 21, 2012

Filed under: Ezekiel — Stephanie Rische @ 4:38 pm
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I’ve always felt a little sorry for some of those Old Testament prophets. Not just because their teachers no doubt mispronounced their funky-sounding names in class, but because their lives were often used as rather startling object lessons. A few cases in point: Hosea was told to marry a prostitute; Isaiah had to walk around naked and barefoot for three years; and Jeremiah was given orders to bury his underwear in a hole by the river until it rotted.

The prophet Ezekiel was no exception. For him, the object lesson was about a heap of bones:

[The Lord] led me all around among the bones that covered the valley floor. They were scattered everywhere across the ground and were completely dried out. Then he asked me, “Son of man, can these bones become living people again?”

 

“O Sovereign Lord,” I replied, “you alone know the answer to that.”

—Ezekiel 37:2-3

 

His response is precisely why I’m no prophet (aside from my pronounceable name). I would have said something like, “Um, God, no offense, but those bones look really, officially, 100% dead.” But Ezekiel said, in essence, “I don’t know if you will bring those bones to life. But I know you can.”

Maybe right now you feel like nothing more than a heap of dried-out bones. You feel certain that it’s game over, that all hope is gone.

But here’s what God says:

 

Look! I am going to put breath into you and make you live again! I will put flesh and muscles on you and cover you with skin. I will put breath into you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.

—Ezekiel 37:5-6

 

We serve a God who is stronger than anything. Even death. And if he can bring a pile of dry bones to life, I’m pretty sure he can do anything.

He can bring your lost child home.

He can heal that relationship that seems broken beyond repair.

He can dig out the splinter that is lodged deep in your heart.

He can raise up your buried dreams.

He can bring dead things back to life.

Oh God, put your breath into us. Bring us back to life. And we will know that you are the Lord.

I’ve taken the challenge of reading the Bible chronologically this year and tracing the thread of grace through it. These musings are prompted by my reading. I’d love to have you join me: One Year Bible reading plan.

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My Heart of Stone September 7, 2012

Filed under: Ezekiel — Stephanie Rische @ 8:14 am
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Daniel and I recently went on a road trip to St. Louis with two goals in mind: to celebrate our first anniversary and to introduce ourselves to our new six-pound relative.

The moment we laid eyes on our little burrito-wrapped nephew, it was love at first sight. We spent the next several hours exclaiming over his perfect toes, his full head of hair, his tiny fingernails, his wide blue-gray eyes, his whispery eyelashes, his knobby knees. We delighted every time he opened his mouth to yawn or furrowed his eyebrows or made a gassy face (which we shamelessly interpreted as a smile).

He charmed us entirely, without a spark of effort of his part. We’d only just met this little human being, yet our hearts couldn’t be any more tender toward him.

Later that evening Daniel and I headed downtown, and as we walked around the city, I was reminded that my heart’s default setting is decidedly not tender.

I saw the old man with the sign that said, “HOMELES. Need $ for food.” I averted my eyes and walked right by, toward our hotel with the running water and the downy white comforter.

Then there was the crowd of drunk guys heading back from the baseball game, swearing and laughing and generally making fools of themselves. I cast judgmental thoughts in their direction and picked up the pace, not bothering to wonder what hurts they were seeking to drown.

After that we were approached by a man who seemed to suffer from some kind of mental illness and was desperate to share his three jokes with us. I nodded politely but uncomfortably and gripped Daniel’s hand a little tighter, willfully ignoring the loneliness that must have provoked such a solicitation.

Safely back in our room, I faced an ugly realization about my heart condition. I ignore the needy, judge the broken, brush off the lonely. My heart is a heart of stone.

How is it, I wonder, that this same heart that is so hard toward those on the city streets can melt on the spot for Baby Colin? It’s not that our nephew has done anything for us; we love him just because he’s family. Just because he’s ours.

Through the prophet Ezekiel, God gave a message to the exiles who were scattered in enemy territory. God promised that one day they would return to their homeland and that he would do an even greater miracle inside them:

I will give them singleness of heart and put a new spirit within them. I will take away their stony, stubborn heart and give them a tender, responsive heart, so they will obey my decrees and regulations. Then they will truly be my people, and I will be their God.

—Ezekiel 11:19-20

How quickly I forget how tender God’s heart is toward me, although I’ve done nothing to deserve it. He loves me just because I am part of his family. Just because I’m his.

I want that kind of a heart transplant—my old, stony heart in exchange for his heart. A heart that sees the sketchy, hard-to-love people under the streetlights the way God sees me. Tenderly. Responsively. As if they were my own family.

Because indeed they are.

 

I’ve taken the challenge of reading the Bible chronologically this year and tracing the thread of grace through it. These musings are prompted by my reading. I’d love to have you join me: One Year Bible reading plan.