The Longest Yard isn’t a movie about inmates playing football. It’s a real place: my front lawn, a yard that stretches forever when the mail truck stops in front of my house. Making my daily pilgrimage to the small metal box full of promise, I jerk open the door and look inside. As I grab a bundle of miscellaneous ads and bills, I wonder if this is my big day. The sky is cloudless, the temperature 72 degrees. Great weather for an acceptance letter.
Thumbing through the pile little looks promising. Perhaps a small envelope with a check might be stuck in one of the unwanted mail-order leaflets. Shake, Shake, shake. Nothing. Thrusting the entire pile under my arm I trudge back to the garage to deposit the trash.
Another day without my big breakthrough. I slump upstairs with a turkey sandwich, ready for some creative moping.
Lessons from Nehemiah
After my allotted amount of pouting, the book of Nehemiah pops into my head and I grab my Bible to cheer myself up. As I flip through the chapter, I read how Nehemiah grieves over the Jerusalem wall that once protected the Israelites. What stood as a fortress of protection from enemies now stands in ruins. But this prophet saw a vision of restoration and began a plan.
He took sections of the wall, assigning the work to different families and groups. The men of Tekoah repaired a section “from the great projecting tower to the wall of Ophel” (3:27. Eliashib, the high priest, worked with fellow priests, repairing the Sheep Gate. The sons of Hassenaah rebuilt the Fish Gate. God used everyone in this mammoth undertaking. Daughters of Shallum, the ruler, pitched in. The need for a quick repair pressed heavily on everyone.
Artisans got their hands dirty. Goldsmith and perfume makers stood shoulder to shoulder, hauling away years of decay. Fellow Israelites dropped their usual trades to create something great. Rulers and sons of rulers, like Hashabiah, Shallun, Rephaiah, and Malkijah, volunteered for menial grunt work.
Humility and hard work built the wall in a mere fifty-two days. People put aside personal agendas and goals to serve their country. Around the clock, fellow Hebrews stood watch, protecting workers against their enemies. History honors them as Nehemiah records their names.
The prophet also notes the prima donnas who wouldn’t pitch in to help. Noblemen of Tekoa refused to work because they looked down on manual labor (known as “the back of the neck” oxen labor), so the common citizens of Tekoa ended up doing double duty. These upper-class snobs go down in history as major slackers.
Application for My Writing
As I read this passage I wonder if I am like the Tekoa elite, unwilling to perform “menial” labor. If the highlight of my day climaxes in trekking to the mailbox or clicking on my email “in” box, to see if I’ve “arrived”, Maybe I should stop obsessing about my latest pet project and write an encouraging letter to a young missionary. Maybe God would rather I shoot an encouraging email to a nephew who hasn’t found a job. Broken segments of wall surround us, and He needs lots of able-bodied writers to reconstruct it.
Back to my computer, I have to face today’s dilemma. Can I lay down that treasured story for a minute and take up another task? By relinquishing my precious words to Him, I stand in line for a trowel and shovel. There’s a lot of wall to be rebuilt and as a writer God can call me to any job. The question I continually ask myself is: Am I available for his construction company?
Nehemiah reminds me that God keeps track of His workers, writing down names for posterity. I want Him to mention my name…as a wall-builder, not an empire-builder.
Carol Stratton is a freelance writer and speaker from Mooresville, North Carolina. She has a husband, four grown children and two grandchildren. Because of her multiple moves in her life, Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas has just published a forty-day devotional called Changing Zip Codes: Finding Community Wherever You’re Transplanted. The book may be purchased through Barnes & Noble or Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Changing-Zip-Codes-Community-Transplanted/dp/0984765557
Contact Carol through her website: www.ChangingZipCodes.com.