This is the sixth in the UCCDM’s Lenten Series 2014. This reflection for the sixth Sunday in Lent comes Rev. Lynda I. Bigler, Chair of UCCDM. Her bio is available on the Board of Directors page.
The Lord’s power overcame me, and while I was in the Lord’s spirit, he led me out and set me down in the middle of a certain valley. It was full of bones.
He led me through them all around, and I saw that there were a great many of them on the valley floor, and they were very dry.
He asked me, “Human one, can these bones live again?”
I said, “Lord God, only you know.”
I prophesied just as he commanded me. When the breath entered them, they came to life and stood on their feet, an extraordinarily large company. ~~Ezekiel 37:1-3, 10
Have you ever felt like a worthless pile of bones? Undervalued? Overlooked? Uncared for? Discarded? Stranded in the middle of nowhere, watching all of life’s actions swirl around you without you?
I did. I was eleven years old. It was a particularly bad week. First, my classmates decided it was the right thing to do to let the visually impaired kid make a home run in soft ball before sixth grade ended. I’d never hit a soft ball in my life. I always struck out. I couldn’t see the bases so I figured it was just as well I never hit the ball. I had no clue where to run. But that day, they decided I needed to get a home run. It started by allowing me to barely hit the ball. Then the first, second, and third basemen missed catching the ball when it was thrown to them. And then somehow I made it home before the ball did. I guess they figured I wouldn’t hear them discuss the Plan or argue with each other as that all played out. There is little lower than being the object of someone else’s good deed for the day.
It was the week those of us on the safety patrol who were moving up to junior high school got our awards for being good safety patrol members. As I marched forward to get my award, I guess I wasn’t supposed to hear how I’d only been put on the safety patrol because I could buddy up with my best friend who was sighted. Besides, it seemed to be the right thing to do.
And then there was the sixth grade dance. I didn’t know how to dance and the boys I liked were certainly not interested in me. But I was on the dance committee because I was a girl and that’s what girls did. At the committee meeting, the head girl said I couldn’t do anything except bring napkins because I had no other abilities.
I told my mother about all these things. She told me that it was all part of growing up with a disability. Time I just smiled my thanks for their kindnesses and get over it.
I felt as lonely as those old bones. Even though those bones ended up in that valley as a result of physical violence, emotional violence put me in the same spot. If all I could expect from life was being someone’s good deed or a token or being prejudged for what I could do, then I might as well be among that pile of bones, too. What kind of life was being offered to me that was better?
Few people talk about depression in children because they believe it to be imagined or learned behavior or even just acting out for attention. Not so! Adult friends with disabilities also talk about their childhoods and/or teen years in which they experienced depression and contemplated suicide like I had experienced. Some of them acted upon their contemplations, but I did not.
Just like those dry bones, God resurrected me. Just like those dry bones, God can resurrect each of us to a new life, a new life in which we can find value and be valued. Resurrection for me meant learning how to channel my anger resulting from social injustice and putting that energy into educating myself to the best of my ability. Resurrection meant learning I had a Voice and how to use it. Resurrection for me eventually meant empowerment.
Ezekiel says there was an extraordinarily large company of us coming back to life: perhaps like were those who are different because of disability, skin color, sexual orientation, culture, or mental health issues , brain injuries, developmental or cognitive disabilities. We are those at the margins of life who are discarded like Ezekiel’s old bones. By sharing our stories we discover how similar our stories are. By sharing our witness, we share our strengths and our value as a People, a People who can effect change.