I’m terrible at knowing what time it is. If I don’t have a clock near me or a steady stream of meetings and alarms to alert me of the time, I would have no concept of the passage of time. When I’m spending time with friends or knee-deep in a project I’m passionate about, I’m particularly prone to lose track of time. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve left work at the end of the day with a headache because I forgot to eat simply because I lost track of time.
And, I can be as out of tune with God’s timing as the passage of time.
I love to achieve and get stuff done so, a lot of time, when I get an idea in my head that I believe is a good one, I want to act on it. Right. Now. What’s the point in waiting if it’s a good idea and I have a clear strategy for making it work?
I wonder if Nehemiah ever had these thoughts while getting ready to rebuild the wall. He had his plan, he prayed, he got the King’s buy-in, time off, and clearly God’s hand was all over this. If it had been me, I would’ve wanted to charge right into Jerusalem and start my rebuilding campaign right there. But that’s not what Nehemiah did.
“So I went to Jerusalem and was there three days. Then I arose in the night, I and a few men with me. And I told no one what my God had put into my heart to do for Jerusalem. There was no animal with me but the one on which I rode. I went out by night by the Valley Gate to the Dragon Spring and to the Dung Gate, and I inspected the walls of Jerusalem that were broken down and its gates that had been destroyed by fire. Then I went on to the Fountain Gate and to the King’s Pool, but there was no room for the animal that was under me to pass. Then I went up in the night by the valley and inspected the wall, and I turned back and entered by the Valley Gate, and so returned. And the officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, and I had not yet told the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials, and the rest who were to do the work.” Nehemiah 2:11-16 (ESV)
Nehemiah was going to make a big splash, but it wasn’t time for that yet. Instead, he flew under the radar and scoped out the place. He wanted to see it for himself without the influence of others. He knew this was going to be a controversial yet necessary thing that he would invite others into, but it wasn’t quite time.
Can you imagine what those moments might have been like for him? Walking around the wall—praying, weeping, listening—imagining what this once was and would once again be. I wonder if he felt intimidated or energized or a combination of both. Maybe he grew more certain in the Holy Discontent that was growing in his bones or maybe the seeds of doubt were planted in his mind that he had to shake off. We won’t ever know for sure, we just know that he took time in solitude to inspect the project before beginning.
It’s so tempting to just jump into something without thinking a whole lot. It’s easy to react to things instead of responding thoughtfully, but I don’t believe that’s what we’re called to do. I believe that we’re supposed to examine what time it is and respond accordingly. For some of us, we need to sit and wait and pray, inspecting the thing we feel called to do. For others of us, we’ve prayed and inspected, and it’s time to move. Both require courage, wisdom, and self-control. No matter which group we find ourselves in today, I pray that we’re able to listen to the leading of the Lord and respond accordingly.
What are you currently dreaming of?
How can you sit and inspect it with the Lord today?