I’ve spent the morning studying the legacy of Nehemiah, and to be honest I’m captivated by this man. In this rich, prophecy-fulfilling, history-shaping recount of Nehemiah’s willingness to do what no one else seemed willing to do, we see a leader take his place, using God-given gifts to change peoples’ lives for God’s glory. Track with me. It’s important to understand the real story before I can explain why this has essentially blown my mind, and challenged me as a mother and servant and disciple of Christ’s beyond what I can articulate beyond this post right now.
The Ashes of Disappointment
Nehemiah was a man of position in Persia when he heard about Jerusalem’s walls being incredibly compromised. “They said to me, “Those who survived the exile are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.” The walls around a city in these times essentially determined their vulnerability for overtaking. These people just returned from exile into the Promised Land. They’d been made slaves in the land God had promised them. Ugh. Nehemiah knew what this meant for the Israelites, that they were in danger, and he picked up his life and went to organize the rebuilding and restoring of the wall around this city. It wasn’t just that he brought his tool belt and was ready to work. No, he had his heart set on the truth of who God is, the promises He’d made and recalled them prayerfully before the Lord. (1:8-11) “
We have all faced disappointment with our people, haven’t we? There are places in our lives that have caught fire and reek of burnt materials, dust seemingly never settles there. We just somehow learn to breathe it in, ignoring how the ashes stick to everything else. It’s hard to see past devastation sometimes. The windows of our soul seem to wear that same ash, making it hard to see outside our own pain. It makes it hard to see our own children at times.
Every time I’m invited to speak or have the opportunity to share my experience as a single mother or share stories of others I’ve had the privilege of walking with, I always explain that no one finds themselves in single parenthood without a pivotal point of disappointment. Why is it safe to say this bold thing? It’s simple. Because God did not ordain families to be with a single parent. “Two became one flesh, and he said be fruitful and multiply.” It’s not a fun reality that I’ve lived, but it’s true.
Return to the stronghold, O prisoners who have the hope; this very day I am declaring that I will restore double to you. Zechariah 9:12
Building a Wall to Win
There are two things about the wall I feel the Lord wants us to build around our families and those entrusted to us.
First, the wall is to keep the enemy out, not to keep you in. You (and your children) have things you are created to do and nothing can stifle this like a wall (translated: cell bars) of fear and shame. The wall is not to hide behind, it is to understand what is in bounds and out of bounds. Which leads me to the second part of this, that boundaries drawn by the Spirit of the Living God are the healthiest things you can establish for your family. It is the answer to the questions of what is approved, and what is not for our family to mess with? What do we believe, and how will we live because of it? What will we invest our time devoting ourselves to?
The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous runs into it and is safe. Proverbs 18:10
The walls of Jerusalem were not built in a day. Rebuilding a life is a day by day process of healing, acquiring new materials, forming a team of people who know the process you’re walking through, who want to see you established in the Refuge of our God as badly as you want it for yourself. I’m praying that those reading this would find that soon.
This is going to look similar and different for every family. A figurative wall, if I were going to say it plainly, would be like a mission statement. What is our family about? What is the most important things we want to spend our time on, and let’s focus on those things. Together. What do I want to teach my children? How do I teach them?
Tip: You’re going to have a hard time knowing what’s right for the family God’s entrusted to you if you’re not asking Him what to do. You’re not in this alone. One of the sweetest revelations as a single mama that the Lord gave me was, “I am not here to be a supplement in your lacking. I’m not here for your convenience. I’m here to heal you, and I’m here to love you as your God.” It’s the best love I’ve learned to receive. I’m still learning. I never want to stop.
There is No Triumph Without Trouble
Nehemiah shows up in Jerusalem, starts surveying the scene, examining the walls and starts organizing a team. There were people in the process that didn’t like that he took charge of a situation and started making changes that no one had seen before. They talked trash, lied about him, threatened him, and was even discouraged by the people he was working with.
Ever heard the phrase, “Haters gone hate…”? I hate to sound like Negative Nelly, but when you’re going against the grain of our culture, making choices that don’t make sense with modern, “progressive” thinking, people don’t like it.
I definitely faced ridicule for the choices I made for my family in the past. Getting rid of my television to remove temptation? How extremist of me. When I invited God into every part of my life, truly asking Him if there was anything that He didn’t want there, I don’t think I was fully ready for what He would show me. It broke my heart. It didn’t matter what other people thought about it. We live our lives for the Audience of One anyway, don’t we?
For am I now trying to win the favor of people, or God? Or am I striving to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ. Galatians 1:10
Nehemiah trusted God, and we can too. He let God break his heart for the caving walls, because he knew the people were vulnerable. This is no different than our households if we are not making the consistent truths of God our Refuge.
There will be resistance with our children, friends. Who likes discipline or change? These boundaries are keeping them safe and teaching them to trust and honor authority. I did not doubt that I was born in sin around the time my daughter turned 1-year-old. She knew what “no” meant, understood I was in charge, and still her curiosity won over her obedience. Our children as they grow will not trust the importance of obedience if they don’t see that courage exemplified in our own lives. But oh, do they get to see the goodness and grace of the Gospel when we’re transparent with them in our repentance.
I hope this encouraged someone today. Know that you are prayed for daily, and that the Lord is seeking your heart to heal your land.
Love you so much.
“… and My people who are called by My name humble themselves, pray and seek My face, and turn from their evil ways, then I will hear from heaven, forgive their sin, and heal their land.”
2 Chronicles 7:14