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‘Can these bones live again?’

Green plant coming through dry, cracked ground

What is your dry bones story, and will you share it? Rev. Brian West says it’s worth the risk, and someone needs you to take the leap.

Grand Blanc UMC

“[The Lord] asked me, ‘Human one, can these bones live again?’ I said, ‘Lord God, only you know.’ He said to me, ‘Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, Dry bones, hear the Lord’s word!’” (Ezekiel 37:3-4, CEB).

In the medical field, it’s called a “boxer’s fracture.” It’s when the small bone that makes up your knuckle, right under the pinky finger, fractures, most likely due to a fist punch. Hence the name. By no stretch of the imagination, I am a boxer, much less an athlete! But in December 2013, I found three fingers splinted on my right hand due to my own boxer’s fracture. In one of those low moments that we’ve all had but rarely talked about, I smacked my fist into the wood molding of the door in my home office. In a season of what you might call imposter syndrome as a newly commissioned pastor, the last straw finally piled on, and I broke — or rather, my hand did.

For the first year and a half of ministry, I tried convincing others that I knew what I was doing. In retrospect, much of that time was spent trying to convince myself of it as well. Did I know what I was doing? Did I have what it took to be a pastor? Did I really have the ability to guide people in their faith journey? And so, there I sat with an icepack on my fingers, an X-ray in my future, and feelings of falling short in ministry time and again. But in this season of feeling empty and unable, healing began far deeper than my boxer’s fracture.

“Human one, can these bones live again?”

After several months of much-needed and much-appreciated therapy at the Samaritan Counseling Center (and gratitude to my wife, who encouraged it), I read these words from Ezekiel, this time in a new light. God was asking Ezekiel, not because God wasn’t sure but because God needed to bring Ezekiel to a realization that what seemed impossible was, in fact, possible. In that moment, I became Ezekiel. In a moment of prayer, God invited me to see that where I saw dryness in the bones of my soul, God was already speaking and breathing life into them. Where I saw imperfection in my ministry, God was creating a tool for witnessing to God’s grace and redemption. While I had seen only my brokenness, my hands were opened to God in prayer, no longer in a cast but healed. Just as my fracture had mended, God was at work in me, proclaiming life to the dry bones within my very spirit.

I will forever be grateful for how God took that season of my life and created something good from it. Still, from time to time, I feel the ache of dry bones. Don’t we all? But, just the same, I still hear God’s question to me, “Can these bones live again?”

In the time since, I have had the opportunity to share this experience with both congregations I have had the privilege of serving, both en masse and one-on-one. When I first began to share this story, I did so with apprehension. How would it be received? Would my ability to lead, to minister, be questioned? Would I be seen as someone plagued by anger issues? Telling our stories comes with risk. And yet, what I have come to discover is that when we give into the Spirit’s guiding (nudge, push, unending plea), the reward far outweighs the risk.

In my sharing, despite the risk, I experienced an overwhelming and, honestly, surprising extension of grace and love. Perhaps I’d even describe it as a sharing that broke down barriers. It’s almost as if each person with whom I told this experience, while they may not have had the X-rays to prove it, knew well the experience of dry or cracked bones. I discovered that my openness about God’s healing and redemptive work in my life — however revealing of my imperfections — allowed others to face their own stories. I hope and pray that, through the grace of God and with the encouragement of our siblings in Christ, we would each discover God’s skeletal healing, our universal need for it, as an invitation to share our stories of transformation and resurrection.

So, what is your dry bones story, and will you share it? It’s worth the risk, and someone needs you to take the leap.

Last Updated on August 21, 2023

The Michigan Conference