On first appearances everything looked great until you went underneath. The old house had that lovely country cottage feel about it but as time went on discoveries were made of rotting walls, leaking pipes and drains not working properly.
There was always going to more underneath than what was first realized.
We can be like this too. Putting out our best appearances, looking good, but knowing that you like everyone else is fighting a hard battle.
Sir- A thought to help us through these difficult times: Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle. Ian MacLaren
One of the deepest fears I think we all have is also one of our deepest longings. We long to be known, fully.
To have a few safe others to know our ‘hard battle’. Then to enter into that place of battle and discover something of the presence of God in us. With careful sensitivity this small beautiful flower is brought out to show its beauty and purpose.
I think this was on Gods heart when he sent Nehemiah to the broken people of Jerusalem. A city where the wall had been destroyed. There were without defense. Anyone could come and rampage through their soul and take what they wanted and leave them even more desolate. They, like us, were fighting a hard battle of the heart.
God longed for them to be known by him and for them to know him. Not just a surface acquaintance, but a deep knowing of intimacy, love and trust.
Nehemiah comes to the city
And so I arrived in Jerusalem. After I had been there three days, I got up in the middle of the night, I and a few men who were with me. I hadn’t told anyone what my God had put in my heart to do for Jerusalem. The only animal with us was the one I was riding.
Under cover of night I went past the Valley Gate toward the Dragon’s Fountain to the Dung Gate looking over the walls of Jerusalem, which had been broken through and whose gates had been burned up. I then crossed to the Fountain Gate and headed for the King’s Pool but there wasn’t enough room for the donkey I was riding to get through. So I went up the valley in the dark continuing my inspection of the wall. I came back in through the Valley Gate. The local officials had no idea where I’d gone or what I was doing—I hadn’t breathed a word to the Jews, priests, nobles, local officials, or anyone else who would be working on the job. Nehemiah 2:11-16
I have read that some believe Nehemiah did a detailed inspection. Crazy talk!
Have you tried to closely inspect something in the dark? Impossible.
You need light and lots of it. Perhaps he had a few torches with flames of light spitting out into the ruins but this was a introductory once over.
I wonder if he asked these questions as he jumped from stone to stone?
- Do I commit to the rebuilding vision knowing only a fraction of what lies beneath?
- Am I up to the task?
- Do I have enough resources?
On first inspection, in the dark, Nehemiah got a quick once over. He would not have known about all the issues he would have to face in the future, but he knew one very important thing.
God had put into his heart the vision of a restored Jerusalem.
I wonder whether God might have whispered into his heart.
‘There is always more underneath but I am with you.
It is in my heart, and I have planted it in yours,
to build up and not tear down.’
For many on the rebuilding journey questions are raised at crossroads.
- Do I go on or shall I settle here?
- Do I have the confidence to keep digging deeper into areas of my life that I am scared of?
- If I open up will I be hurt again?
Rebuilding and recovery requires guts, and a willingness to just take that next step whatever that might be.
What to do when you find there is more underneath
- Accept that there will always be more.
Nehemiah would have known that this was only a brief inspection. That upon closer inspection, under the light of day there would be more. That as the rubble was pulled away new problems would be seen, new obstacles to sort through, and new foundations to be rebuilt.There will always be more, and thats OK.
When you are rebuilding your life, or supporting someone who is, there will always be more.
That is why it is crucial to have people around you that know something of the issues you are facing. Good counseling, spiritual direction and friendships gently explore what lies beneath and they invite Christ into those parts that need his presence.
2. Acknowledge the presence of fear.
Fear can keep us locked into not being willing to go to places in our heart where God would want us to venture.
I wonder what emotions Nehemiah had to wrestle with. He was human like us. I wonder if at times he wondered what on earth God was doing with him. Whether he was really up to the task.
It may seem strange but this rebuilding project was done by a flawed man. He wasn’t perfect and I sure would have had his doubts. In those times of fear he went back into the strength of the reinforcing mesh of Gods presence and backing of the King.
Think of me as a fellow-patient in the same hospital who, having been admitted a little earlier, could give some advice. C.S. Lewis
3. Invite others on the journey.
Nehemiah didn’t explore alone. He took a few others with him. Perhaps they were engineers, or maybe they were body guards. The important point is that he didn’t go alone.
I know that we would probably much rather go alone into the areas of soul work. We don’t really want others to see us in the raw state. To see the mess under the carefully manicured self. Yet it is the presence of others we can fully acknowledge our humanity and they can also acknowledge theirs.
4. Know that there will be places that seem impassable.
I love how Nehemiah made sure to include in his writing the use of an animal to inspect the ruins. Perhaps it was a donkey or maybe a horse, but it was some animal that was able to carry him through the majority of the ruins. That was until he came to an area that even that animal could not negotiate.
Often we will come to a place in our journey of soul rebuilding where we have to dismount from whatever has carried us so far. It might be our sense of humour, ability to string words together, sheer determination, knowledge, beliefs.
With cathartic relief, with tears, we let go of the pretense and dismount to face the tough bits on foot.
We see that there is no other way forward but through the raw painful honesty of the soul. This is me and this is how it is.
Jesus describes entering into his kingdom, that place of knowing the fullness of his presence, like passing through a narrow gate. The narrow gate being like two giant boulders where you have to dismount and take off all your luggage and barely squeeze through. Is there something you need to let go of so that you can enter into the phase of rebuilding.
5. Remember Gods heart is to rebuild.
Nehemiah didn’t tell anyone of his plans because this was Gods plan. I can imagine if he had come to the city and made his intentions known he would have faced all sorts of people with all sorts of opinions.
What God had put into his heart may well have been belittled, attacked, or ridiculed. Some may have endorsed it and given it courage.
When an idea is a mere small seedling you need to protect it. Rebuilders carefully hold the genesis of an intention close to their hearts.
They don’t allow others to know for fear of it being snuffed out. He wanted to be influenced only by God in how the wall was to be rebuilt. Rebuilders only take a few safe others into their confidence about what God has placed in their hearts.
There will always be more underneath, but God knows everything about it and promises to rebuild with you.
Quotes to consider
- Curiosity will not discover anything that grace cannot handle. Larry Crabb
- I am a safety-first creature. Of all arguments against love none makes so strong an appeal to my nature as “Careful! This might lead you to suffering. C.S. Lewis
- A vision we give to others of who and what they could become has power when it echoes what the spirit has already spoken into their souls. Larry Crabb
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