My friends have a luscious confederate jasmine framing their front door. Its waxy leaves stay green through the winter and its small white blossoms give off a delicate scent welcoming everyone who comes to their home in the spring. I have planter’s regret because I chose confederate rose, which blooms for a week, sheds leaves all year long, and goes brown in the winter.
I pass their house to leave our neighborhood. This year, instead of vibrant green, I saw dead leaves and gray, peeling vine due to an unusually long and bitter winter in Alabama. Every day from late February to April (jasmine’s blooming season) I kept waiting for it to come alive. All I could hear was Miracle Max’s voice from Princess Bride. Was the vine “mostly dead or all dead?” Because “there’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. With all dead, well, with all dead there’s usually only one thing you can do . . . go through his clothes and look for loose change.”
It was time to start looking for loose change.
Or so I thought.
The jasmine outside our friends’ front door reflects the inner reality of their lives. They’re shutting down the family business and paying everyone (except themselves) when they should be enjoying the fruits of their labor: cruises, early retirement and grandbabies. The house is intertwined with the business so they wait to hear if they will need to let go of their home along with the business. They’re at the end of a four-year journey. It’s been a long, bitter season.
As I saw their dead vines, I was meditating on the vision of the Valley of Dry Bones in Ezekiel 37 in preparation for InSpero’s Pentecost event. Why did the Lord force the prophet to see the hopeless reality of God’s people and call it “all dead?” Did the prophet walk on those bleached bones, grinding them down further, kicking up the dust? When the Lord asked the rhetorical question, “Can these bones live?” I wish I could have seen Ezekiel’s facial expression as he answered the Lord, “O Lord GOD, you know.” (Why are you asking me? You’re God!)
The prophet may have been echoing the cries of the confused and suffering exiles. “What about Your promises? You said we were Your people. Is this what You do to those You love? Don’t rub it in. We know we’re good as dead.”
Why didn’t God just wave His supernatural wand and show Ezekiel His power? Why the long, painful process? But what if God was leading Ezekiel in a step-by-step dance to belief, to a bigger picture of Himself
- Behold. Embrace reality. It appears hopeless. Start looking for the loose change.
- Listen. Pay attention for the unseen Reality. Pause and listen for His voice and direction for the next right thing.
- Trust and obey. Do what seems like foolishness. Speak to those dead bones. Keep responding to His commands
- Believe the unbelievable. You may see the miracle of a great army marching out of Death Valley. And you play a part, even though you do nothing miraculous. Best of all, it is done in such a way that you and all those around “shall know” that He is the LORD.
Our friends have “beheld” the dry bones in their business. The dead jasmine was like God whispering not only, “Can these vines live?” but also, “Can you live?” All they could answer was, “Only You know, Lord.”
They were tempted to fire up the power saw. But they waited, listening for the unseen voice, and did the next right thing. The husband pruned the vine of all the leaves and dead shoots, stripping it back to the bones, wondering why God had added this irony to their lives. He cut into the vine with his pocketknife. No sap, no hint of green, just dry, peeling, bleached wood. The wife, a designer, saw beautiful patterns in the twists and shapes of the dead vine and was curious.
At the beginning of May, one green leaf appeared at the top of their trellis. Then another. We came over to see, touch, believe the unbelievable. Can these vines live? Slowly over the next two weeks, green leaves filled all three sides of the trellis. My friend was grateful. “I’ll miss the scent of the flowers this year, but I’m glad we haven’t lost the vine.”
Then a single flower came.
After the “normal” blooming season.
Then another, and another, and another.
And the scent?
It smelled like hope.
Bone. Sinew. Flesh. Skin. Breath. Life.
Vine. Leaf. Flower. Scent. Breath. Hope.
Our friends are still waiting on the final details for their business and house. But every day as they go through their door, they see life where there had been dead wood. They smell hope. They had nothing to do with it coming back to life. They look at the vine and know it was the Lord. All of us who enter their home also know that He is Lord.
Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.