Going through an old journal — from the days of four kids under the age of nine, I found an entry based on my reading of Nehemiah 4:10:
“The strength of the laborers is giving out, and there is so much rubble that we cannot build the wall.”
“Wow,” I thought, scanning the entry. “That must have been quite a day.” Living in the midst of diapers and flash cards, Hot Wheels and finger paint, dirty laundry and the flotsam and jetsam of meal preparation, I had read Nehemiah Chapter 4 with a kind of howling, mind-numbed sympathy, and had responded by turning the verse into my own lament-of-the-day. “How can I sweep a floor that I can’t even find?”
Having raised the entire wall to half its height, the people of God had clearly demonstrated their fortitude for the task of rejuvenating their walled city. Unfortunately, their relentless progress was ratcheting up the desperation level of their enemies. Disenchanted with the results of taunting and name-calling, Sanballat and Tobiah were raising a brute squad in hopes of creating confusion among the ranks. Consequently, some of the wall-building crew had to be pulled for security duty, leaving everyone feeling a little leery, a little more threatened, and a lot more overwhelmed by the rubble.
The most important difference between building and re-building is the rubble, and the truth is that most of what we do in this life falls into the category of re-building. We have a tendency to handle our personal rubble in one of two ways:
Work around it and hope no one else sees it. A character in one of Anne LaMott’s novels expresses this hope: “She wanted him to see her as someone with just a few pieces of colorful carry-on luggage instead of multiple body bags requiring special cargo fees and handling.” Wouldn’t we all secretly like to be that effective at image management?
Get used to the mess. When the rubble of addiction, a crumbling relationship, or unstable financial foundations have become “normal,” life is exhausting before one toe is off the mattress in the morning. Failing to see the rubble creates a dangerous environment — for working and for living.
Nehemiah and his crew persevered in spite of the rubble, and it appears that they managed to do that by going on the offensive (v. 13); by remembering the Lord (v. 14); and by staying focused on their core values (v. 14). The resulting perseverance and holy ambition carried them through days of wearing a tool belt on one hip and a scabbard on the other.
What is the rubble that you are working around or trying to ignore? Compare the effort of living in the ruins with the amount of exertion it would require to “clean it up.” Which is a better expenditure of your days? Ask yourself if you really want to be climbing over this same mess ten years from now.
It was not by accident that the Israelite construction crew was organized by family and challenged to fight for their brothers, sons, daughters, wives and houses. Who is stepping over your rubble with you? Begin clearing the rubble for their sake, as much as for yours, and, above all, let the body of Christ fulfill its role of sober vigilance in caring for one another — by caring for you. Then, hear the words of Nehemiah:
“Remember the Lord, great and awesome . . .”
God is at work behind the scenes, and waits for the one who will admit her helplessness and need. He wants to prove his strength on your behalf (II Chronicles 16:9).
In both instances, I am dependent upon the God who is at work behind the scenes. Sometimes clearing the rubble, sometimes working around it until God shows me the way, I want to make it my “practice” (in both senses of the word!) to “Remember the Lord, great and awesome.”