Friday, May 27, 2016

How do you fix a broken country?


No...this blog isn't going to be a tirade against current policies or government officials. There are no political statements hidden within...just in case Big Brother is watching. (Just kidding!) No, this blog is about something I noticed in my morning readings the other day and how it applies to us today...well, at least it applies to me.

A couple of days ago, I was reading the book of Nehemiah.  Actually I was reading just the first four chapters, and I noticed something that has been on my mind ever since. For those who aren't familiar with the book of Nehemiah, I highly encourage studying it! It is the story of how one man, under the direction of God, led the people to rebuild the city.

You see, Nehemiah was serving as cupbearer to the king and he was visited by someone from his hometown of Jerusalem. As anyone would do, he asked about how things were in his home town, and unfortunately the news wasn't good. "They told me, “The exile survivors who are left there in the province are in bad shape. Conditions are appalling. The wall of Jerusalem is still rubble; the city gates are still cinders.” (Nehemiah 1:3)

To make a long story short, Nehemiah asked for permission from the king to go back home and help repair the city. Amazingly, the king not only gave permission for the time off, but also gave him letters that instructed those in charge of the area to provide supplies for him to accomplish the task.

What caught my eye this time was in chapter 3. Now normally, I would have just done a sort of speed-reading over this chapter because it is a list of people and the jobs they did. I've never been really good at reading lists. This time, however, something stopped me. Read slower. Look at what each man did.

As I read, I noticed that chapter 3 is a list of people, just like you and me, who each took a part in rebuilding the wall. There are those who took on huge parts of the wall, a few who refused to get their hands dirty, and a couple that really surprised me. "Above the Horse Gate the priests worked, each priest repairing the wall in front of his own house. After them Zadok son of Immer rebuilt in front of his house and after him Shemaiah son of Shecaniah, the keeper of the East Gate; then Hananiah son of Shelemiah and Hanun, the sixth son of Zalaph; then Meshullam son of Berekiah rebuilt the wall in front of his storage shed." 

Did you notice it? Each priest repaired the wall in front of his own house. Then one guy, Meshullam, rebuilt the wall in front of his storage shed! Not what anyone would call super impressive. I mean, they only tackled the part of the wall right in front of their house - but it was important enough to get mentioned!

That's when it hit me. Here lies the answer to the problems we see in our own country. (Oh come on - no matter which party you follow, you have to admit we have some problems right now.) The answer doesn't lie in more government intervention; it lies in each man repairing the wall in front of his own house! As I looked at the passage, I wondered what did this mean for me? I mean, I'm just a school teacher. What can I do?

Really, it's about doing whatever God places in our path. By beginning where we are, we can repair the broken places in our country. We can do just what those people in Jerusalem did.

There was one other part of those chapters that really caught my attention. "13 The Valley Gate was rebuilt by Hanun and villagers of Zanoah; they repaired it, hung its doors, and installed its bolts and bars. They went on to repair 1,500 feet of the wall, as far as the Dung Gate.
14 The Dung Gate itself was rebuilt by Malkijah son of Recab, the mayor of the district of Beth Hakkerem; he repaired it, hung its doors, and installed its bolts and bars.Yes, the "Dung gate" is exactly what it sounds like it might was the gate where they took the poop out of the city! Not exactly a pleasant job, but if you've ever lived in a city that has sewage issues, you know just how important it can be! Notice who did the job....the mayor of the district of Beth Hakkerem. Now, I don't know anything about Beth Hakkerem, but I was impressed that the MAYOR took on this job. He didn't see working on the Dung Gate as beneath him. It needed to be done by somebody and he was somebody!

I've just begun to dig into Nehemiah again, but so far I've definitely noticed some important lessons in those first few chapters on how do you go about fixing a broken country.

#1 - Everyone did what was before him. The people didn't wait for the government to swoop in and fix what was broken...not that the current government in that land would have been much help. The current government wasn't too excited about seeing the city repaired. The people saw what needed to be done, and they did it.

#2 - They faced opposition as they worked to rebuild the city. At first it was just jeering comments like "that wall will fall as soon as a fox jumps on it." In our vernacular, "that wall won't hold up to a kitten sitting on it." Then later the opposition became much more dangerous. Each man, and woman, had to work with a trowel in one hand and a sword in the other. Did I forget to mention that the list included women? Oh yeah, this process isn't just limited to the men! (11-12 Malkijah son of Harim and Hasshub son of Pahath-Moab rebuilt another section that included the Tower of Furnaces. Working next to him was Shallum son of Hallohesh, mayor of the other half-district of Jerusalem, along with his daughters.)

#3 - No job was too menial...not even for those in high position. If the mayor of a district can roll up his sleeves and fix the poop gate, who am I to think any job is too lowly for me?

Three simple lessons, all from the first four chapters. (Wonder what the rest of the book will hold?)

So, where does a person start? Well, it may be something as simple as what I am doing. As I go for my runs, I pray for the neighborhood and my city. That's as far as I've gotten so far....but at least it's a start. For some it might involve starting a neighborhood Bible study or reaching out to that new family on your block. 

How about it? Are you interested in helping to fix a broken country? It begins by rebuilding the wall that is right in front of you. Join me as we pick up our trowel, and our sword, and rebuild.

*Repost from a few years back...still seems to apply.