When I was little, I told my grandpa that I wanted to catch a bird. My grandfather was a rancher and I can still remember his gnarled and scarred hands from mending fence and punching cattle. He smelled of pipe tobacco, honest sweat, and horse. His voice was gravel and when he spoke, he was listened to. I held him in awe and adoration.
For all the external tough my grandfather had weathered, on the inside he had soft places; and one of those was for children. He smiled at me and handed me a salt shaker. “Sis, it’s not easy catching a bird. You gotta sneak up on one, shake salt on the tail feathers, and then they won’t be able to fly away. I gripped the shaker in my small fist and raced to the corrals where I knew there were lots of birds. Imagine my grandfather’s surprise when I returned 10 minutes later carrying a bird. I had snuck up on it, shook salt on its tail and captured him. I held the tiny creature and I could feel it’s heart beating furiously within it’s breast, it’s tiny, sharp bones pressed through its feathers against my fingers. It’s fragility scared me, and once captured I didn’t know what to do with it. In the air, it was strong and capable in flight. On the ground, it was frail and helpless. And I presented the bird to my grandpa because I didn’t know how to make him fly again….I had tried to let the bird go, but he wouldn’t fly.
My grandfather knew the bird had been injured and explained that I needed to leave the bird outside, there was nothing we could do to save it. I did not want to believe this. So, I didn’t let the bird go, I brought him inside and tried to save him, but he died the next day. And I cried, I could not save the baby bird.
I leave today to help medically transport home a boy named Daniel. He is 15 years old and weighs 22 pounds. He has spent his life in an institution in Eastern Europe. Much like the baby bird, his bones press against his skin at sharp angles and his frail body cannot hold himself up. His body is wasted and misshapen. And like the baby bird, I will not be able to save him. His hope, his life, and his future are not held by man. Sure, his body bears the scars and abuse of man, but his breath is held by God.
Unfortunately there are thousands of Daniels in institutions, but there are also thousands of Daniels sitting in our churches. Men and women who are frail, tired and weak. Dry bones who are living in dry places. Dead hearts, broken marriages, wayward children, sickness, and apathy. And this verse came to my mind as I have prayed for this journey. Because truly this trip is so much bigger than an RN hopping a plane to help bring home a small boy in Eastern Europe. This trip is about a God who will pursue a frail, unworthy, broken soul to the ends of the Earth. A God that loves the weakest, the least of these, the orphans. This trip is about Gods love for each of us, and the lengths he will travel to rescue a tiny bird.
Again He said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! Thus says the Lord God to these bones: ‘Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the Lord.'” So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to bone. Indeed, as I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them over; but there was no breath in them. Also He said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: ‘Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.'” So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army.
I could not save the bird, I cannot save Daniel, I cannot save…but I can step into the valley unafraid and say “Come Alive”. I can encourage and say, “Do not be weary, remain steadfast”.
And when I hold Daniel on this trip home, I will press the name of Jesus into his heart. I will say, “oh dry bones, come alive” And I will know that it is God who will place flesh and sinew upon his bones, and breathe life back into his body. And we will all know God is Lord. And we will all think about the lengths God will go to carry us home.