Last week was a rough one for me. Many good things happened, some weird things, a few new things, and more than a few mistakes as well. One night, as I was reflecting and praying about the events of the day, I was praying that God would heal the broken pieces of my heart and replace the damaged parts of my identity. I asked him to remove shame completely and restore the things that have been lost along the way.
And immediately I thought of this verse at the beginning of the book of Nehemiah:
“And they said to me, “The remnant there in the province who had survived the exile is in great trouble and shame. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates are destroyed by fire.”” Nehemiah 1:3 (ESV)
At that moment, I was incredibly aware of my own brokenness and frailty. I was like the wall of Jerusalem. In some areas, I had left myself defenseless. I had become lax and there was a consequence for that. I felt immense shame for my deficiencies. And I needed someone outside of myself to come and rescue me.
I had never related these verses to my own self or my own heart, I had always seen Nehemiah as a book about external changes that a group of people, led by the presence of God, can make. This book has always pumped me up because it reminds me that strategy, perseverance, and leadership are not separate from following the Lord, but deepen as we grow with him.
But now I’m wondering if this book is so much more than that.
Could it be that these walls are a metaphor for us? Could we be the ones whose walls can be burned? Could we possibly be in great trouble and shame?
I’m sure that people who know more theology than me probably have an answer to this, but just allowing myself to wonder and read this chapter in a different light has encouraged me immensely.
God wasn’t and isn’t content with me staying in my sin and shame, but he’s provided a way out. He is the provision for me and he rescued me when I didn’t deserve it. He’s taken the brokenness that I brought to the table and gave me wholeness instead. The pain that I have to offer him have been changed to beauty and rejoicing.
Maybe the book of Nehemiah is also a foreshadowing of what Jesus was going to do for us.
Maybe it’s a sweet reminder that we’re not too far gone for his grace and shame is no match for his love and kindness.
I encourage you to take some time and pray and ponder about your own heart today. We’re going to get into a lot of fun stuff about leadership and helping others and following our God-given missions in the coming weeks, but I think the best place for us to start is with us. After all, how can we help others if we aren’t operating from a place of overflow?
So, I just want to ask you two simple questions today:
How’s your heart?
What is God saying to you?
I pray we each take the time to sit and examine these questions with the Lord. Let’s ask him to speak to us and be courageous enough to sit and listen for his answer.
“Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)