Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Focus on the people, not the wall

Every other Tuesday I meet with a wonderful woman for a study through the book of Nehemiah. It is a book that I had never read before and my eyes are being opened so much with every lesson. If you don't know, Nehemiah was a man of God who was burdened for the ruined city of Jerusalem and was granted favor by the king of Persia to return and rebuild the walls. Nehemiah's heart was broken for the city of his ancestors that had been reduced to rubble.

Nehemiah is most often used as a lesson in leadership in the Bible. He orchestrated many people that had been in exile for many decades, returned to the city and led the people to rebuild the wall that served as an important security measure from nearby cities. Nehemiah is threatened many times by surrounding kings and empires. They were seen as a threat to the other empires because they were rebuilding the wall. The fear was that they would rise up and attack.

But what has really gotten me about Nehemiah is how concerned he is about the people doing the work. He goes to great measures to make sure the people are taken care of. He refuses to take a paycheck from them which he rightfully earned, and calls other nobles out for taxing the people more than they could afford. And he makes sure each of them has some kind of protection, ensuring there were armed men at the gaps in the wall and where the people were building. I have great respect for Nehemiah.

So we decided to challenge ourselves to remember the people and not be so consumed with the wall. At first I thought, "What does that look like in my life?" I'm not building a wall, or anything really. I don't have some major calling on my life like Nehemiah did. I don't have a wall, so this will be a piece of cake! I was so wrong!

We each tied a piece of gray yarn around one wrist to remind us about the people so they are not lost in the building of the wall. The day after, I was sitting at work when the phone rang. I was busy and didn't want to have to stop what I was doing to answer the call. When I picked up the person on the other end almost immediately started yelling at me, complaining about something wrong with the paper. I wanted to just half listen and pacify her and get her off the phone quickly. And then the gray piece of yarn caught my eye and reminded me that she was a person and by me wanting to focus on getting my other work done my eyes were on the wall. So I listened and explained the problem and all was well.

And in the 2 weeks that I have had the yarn on, there have been plenty of opportunities for my focus to drift back to the wall or to the work to be done. And most days I have failed. But it's not about how many times I forget and am reminded that Jesus cares more about the people than the work you're doing. Don't get me wrong, work is important too, but if it is distracting you from loving the people he has put in your life, you are in danger of losing your perspective.

Here are just a few of the times I have been reminded to think about the people:
My niece and nephew wanting me to play outside with them when I have chores I would like to get done; a coworker needing help when I have work to get done; run errands for my parents while they are out of town when I just want to sleep; getting up early to watch my niece and nephew on the weekend while my sister had to work when I just wanted to sleep in.

There are plenty more examples I could give you, but I don't have time to list it all. And there have been plenty of times I have complained about the situation only to be reminded of what Jesus really expects of me.

In what ways can you think about the people instead of the work to be done on the wall?

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