Home Youth Leaders Articles for Youth Leaders Parenting in the Valley of Dry Bones

Parenting in the Valley of Dry Bones

There are moments as a parent when you realize you’ve done a lot less clapping for your kids than you have disciplining them for sin. It can feel like all you do is battle them between errands and events, pick-ups and drop-offs, and much of what you battle lies where you cannot reach, inside hearts which you feel so helpless to change.

How can we enjoy our children in those moments when we can’t even think of them without fear of what might come?

Another Valley the Same

I have found it helpful to remember another hard place, a place where a man faced a dead, barren valley, helpless to change anything on his own. In Ezekiel 37, we read that God himself set Ezekiel down in the middle of the valley of dry bones. There was no sign of life, which is a lot like we can feel when faced with our children’s sins. Sometimes there are so many it’s often hard to even know where to begin—whether squabbles over a toy no one wanted the day before, or the refusal to say “thank you” when they should, or the incessant complaining when they don’t get what they want. It seems that everywhere you turn there is no hope to be found.

As they age, the subject matter only gets more complicated and the consequences more life-altering. An attitude of superiority and callousness toward another’s suffering makes you wonder where your tender-hearted son went. They have friends who trouble you, tweets that alarm you, secrets that worry you. It all combines into one big valley of dust and death. Imagine gazing at a valley full of it and hearing the Lord ask you as he did Ezekiel, “Can these bones live?”

That valley was over Ezekiel’s head, and parenting is over ours. He doesn’t know how to make the bones live, but he knows who does. “O Lord G??, you know,” Ezekiel says (Ezekiel 37:3). God brings Ezekiel into the miracle of resurrection by telling him to do what he cannot do … speak life.

Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the L???. Thus says the Lord G?? to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live, and you shall know that I am the L???. (Ezekiel 37.4–6″ data-version=”esv” data-purpose=”bible-reference”>Ezekiel 37:4–6)

The Breath of God

And as he speaks, Ezekiel hears the sound of creation happening again, as from the dust, bone rattles against bone. There are now bodies, but not life—not yet. There is no breath, no life-force to animate their being. They are the shell of what was, the promise of what could be.

Again, we know this parable in our own lives and in the lives of our children. So often, we’ve seen them walk through the motions of a gospel-centered life, doing what they “know” is right, but without the power of the Spirit. They have the appearance of life and all the right structures in place, but the heart is not beating. They said they were sorry. They picked up their toys with force and temper. They mouthed “yes, sir.” Though you’ve taught them the form of what to feel, do and say, you recognize in these moments how helpless you are to change their hearts. This is when we need the same thing Ezekiel did that day in the valley.

Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord G??: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live. (Ezekiel 37:9)