Nov 15 + 16
The Bones Will Come Back Together
24/05/2019 3:50:02 PM | Zoe Boyle
Burnt and broken
Pink and tender
A blistering moonscape.
Laying as if in the grave already.
Your singed eyelashes
Can't hold in the tears
That meander softly
Down the curvatures of dried cracks
- One last attempt to soothe
your dying body.
You won’t be restored as you were before
Because you are not her anymore
You’re not that young garden girl
Naive to the world
It doesn’t work like that.
Your skin shrieks with pain
Demanding that you be laid
As the woman that you are.
You will surely die
But, let me tell you of a water.
Alive and rushing
Flowing and pushing
Let me get you there
New skin grows there
Let me get you there
The tear drops of that water
Stitch all your skin together
Drought and dry ground
Form ridges, rivers and mountains
A map of scars
Important scars that must never go away
For they speak
Their lines spell the words:
‘Whatever happened to me before,
Will not destroy me anymore,
Will never be the end of me.
Everything can be healed.
Not put back together
In the way that I envisaged.
Not without the memories
Or without my broken story
But still, a new skin
Even more beautiful
Far, far more unrecognisable.
- She can grow from infertile ground.’
Scars screaming to the cosmos
Everything can be healed.
I wrote this poem to help me ground my arduous and messy relationship with hope. Joel Edwards addressed the 2018 Justice Conference with the bold words from the book of Revelation: ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Hope is far more gruelling than being confident that one day ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes and that there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain.’
I’m more than fortunate to have only needed to unlock the concept of hope when I was 21. I say that because hope usually makes itself known to us in the midst of great suffering.
At this time of my life I began an internship at a Christian community development organisation in Melbourne’s CBD. I lived in the building that skirted a laneway popular for people who wanted a private place to sleep, amongst many other things. Simultaneously I was beginning my undergrad in a course that scrupulously critiqued the state of the world. The global dysfunction that I was learning about was epitomised in the people who were coming along to our programs and who were begging with their cardboard signs along my path to class each day.
What exacerbated the whole situation was a faith formation course that I did the year before, introducing me to inconvenient concepts such as Imago Dei, the image of God. Foolishly, I took the concept extremely seriously.
In the first few months of working at this NGO I was woken by a young man crying in the laneway seven stories down from the window to the right of my bed. I heard many things each night from my bed. I often heard the radio playing, people chatting, dogs barking. I often heard the click of syringe caps falling to the concrete. This one night I heard a young man cry in a way that I’ve never heard anyone cry before. He was crying out, almost praying for everything to stop, wondering why it always happens to him. I thought he might take his own life. He was yelling in his sobbing and he was yelling in his pain. I listened alone in my apartment. Not knowing what else to do, I listened and I prayed for peace. I thought of the beautiful innocence of the kids that I lead on camps and I thought about how he was like them once. The Imago Dei in this man. How could it have come to this? I’ll always remember that night.
Recently I heard someone say that the world simply wouldn’t be able to cope if we treated each other like we bear the image of God. It would be too overwhelming. We couldn’t treat people the way that we do. We couldn’t cope with seeing someone sleeping rough or injecting heroin in the backstreets. We couldn’t cope with seeing refugees treated like animals. We couldn’t cope with seeing children’s tummies bloated from malnutrition. We couldn’t cope with seeing prisons full, let alone filled by majority First Peoples. We couldn’t cope with hearing stories of children being abused. We couldn’t cope with knowing how often women are killed by their intimate partner. We couldn’t cope with hearing the monstrous rates of suicide. We couldn’t cope with sixteen hour working days. We couldn’t cope with learning of the dozens and dozens of genocide in the last century alone.
If we are all icons to the divine, there is broken life everywhere.
This world is a mess. I’m not saying that it’s not also beautiful and sacred, but if you cannot see the brokenness then you need to be braver. God is inviting you to look.
Climate activist Joanne Macy encourages us to honour our pain for the world. My prayer as a young girl was that God ‘break my heart for what breaks yours.’ The older I grow and the more I learn about this wild and wonderful world, the more I am drawn to love it at the same time as I’m drawn to lament over it. In our Scriptures we have an image of a God who weeps when his friend dies and who experiences a sense of existential abandonment when he himself is about to die on the cross.
The more we love, the more we suffer.
Often in the evenings after a long day I would sit on the floor of my room on level seven and sing something alongside my ukulele. Small experiences of beauty soothed me so much. I was disoriented by my inability to pray with words and so I just sang in hums and oohs and occasionally a sentence of deep poignancy would arrive. One of these evenings the words fell from my lips: the bones will come back together.
Ezekiel 37: Ezekiel is led out into a valley filled with dry bones and the Lord tells him to say to them, ‘I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin. I will put breath in you, and you will come to life.’ And as he’s doing so a rattling noise erupts and the bones come together, bone by bone. Tendons and flesh appear on them and skin covers them. Then breath entered them and they stand on their feet.
The bones will come back together. Who knew those six words would articulate for me what has been the cry of the human heart since time immemorial: When will it all end? When will enough be enough? When will those whose lives are stifled by no means of their own find ease? When will the wheel of injustice cease? When will it all be healed?
Hope is nestled here. It is gripping onto the promise that it will all be made new whilst at the same time having so much to loose. It’s struggling to see how it can be possible at all, but choosing to continue to look. It is continuing to be present to this liminal space. This now-and-not-yet place.
What you can see in my poem is the world as a girl. You can see me grappling to understand what it means that the world will be made new. I’ve come to learn that ‘new’ means completely, utterly, never-seen-before ‘new’.
New as in, a colour that we have never seen before.
New as in, the first time humanity glanced back at the earth from space.
New as in, ourselves in twenty years time.
If the Japanese metaphor of healing is a broken vase being pieced together with gold, then the metaphor of renewal is that the vase is a completely new creation. Still a vase.
The protagonist in my poem is on the verge of dying. But the poem speaks of a world being renewed by a living water and being made alive into a different, unforeseeable whole. She won’t be a reentering into the garden, or a reversal of her life from birth. No, she will bear everything that she has gone through and been and become, and she will be something different again tomorrow.
For I am about to do something new.
See, I have already begun!
Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.
« Back to blog list
Subscribe for updates