I did it. By the middle of December I finished what I started in January. I made it to the end of 13 chapters- 406verses- journaling my way through the book of Nehemiah.
The Bible that I keep by my bed quite naturally falls open to that book now. And I nearly filled a daily planner with my notes- it took me 273 daily pages in my planner-turned-journal. Which means, I should have finished a couple of months ago. My journey was steady and consistent until the 13th chapter, or until about September. And that chapter took me a couple of months to get through. There are lots of reasons to which I could attribute that decline in consistency, but I think for tonight I will just to choose to focus on the fact that...I made it. When it comes to Bible Study, I rarely remember finishing anything of this size that I started. That's sad, I guess, but it made this finish all the sweeter.
And the final verses were worth the journey. In fact, they tie the entire journey together. At first glance, unless you have traveled through the whole book, these verses might not mean too much...
" vs 30 So, I purified the priests and the Levites of everything foreign, and assigned them duties, each to his own task. vs31 I also made provision for contributions of wood at designated times and for the first fruits.
Remember me with favor, O my God."
While it seems just another Old Testament ritual, this purification and assignment of duties means that at the end of the day, the end of Nehemiah's story doesn't get tied up with a pretty bow. There is no definitive conclusion to his work recorded in this book. In fact, these last couple of verses represent a cycle of years and years of Nehemiah helping the people establish boundaries that will rebuild their destroyed lives, the people repenting and accepting this new life by signing a covenant or agreement to do so, living that way for a while, becoming distracted/negligent/rebellious, falling back into old careless ways and Nehemiah coming back to reestablish boundaries and correct the ways of the leaders. Over. And over. And over.
And at the end of the day, when he must have had an urge to throw his hands in the air and walk away, comes his simple request "Remember me with favor, O my God."
You have no idea how encouraging this idea is to me at the end of 2011. I'm sure I'm starting to sound a bit like a broken record, but 2011 was a year we experienced the Lord really asking us to do something difficult. He has probably asked us to countless times before, only this time we walked in it. BUT what I haven't mentioned much about is that the journey is STILL difficult. Yes, it was hard to incorporate three additional small children into our home. Difficult to experience the chaos of doing life with six preschoolers. To adjust to being a party-of-eight. But OH MY it was even harder to send them home wondering if a difference had been made. The truth is we may always be involved with their family and while we believe in MIRACLES, we continue to see a cycle much like that which Nehemiah found himself in. It seems that at each round of the cycle, new difficulties are uncovered and with such there comes a new temptation for us toward hopelessness. In all honesty, we must admit that it is possible that we will never, in this life, see a "pretty bow" at the end of this story.
We are in. We are all in to this calling that we feel the Lord has set before us. But that doesn't mean there aren't days we would like to throw our hands up and say, "Lord, it's useless. I'm DONE". Many days. Yet, we remain.
Remember me with favor, God. Remember that I have accepted the calling you set before me. Remember that I didn't always understand what you were asking of me. Remember that I didn't understand WHY you were asking me to do it AGAIN. Remember that I offered help, provided resources, offered love and STILL do not see the difference it has made in the story. Remember me, O God.
Remember that I am human. Remember that I'm trying. Remember that sometimes I don't want to try anymore. Remember that I am learning. I'm learning how to love truly unconditionally. I'm learning how to offer help without expecting anything in return. I'm learning to Trust. I'm learning to Pray. And learning to release. Remember me, O God. And please, remember me with favor.
If you find yourself there, seemingly caught there. Please remember this...We have seen that He does REMEMBER. And will remember. Time. And Time. Again.
And that was worth the journey.
Even though I'm finished journaling through the book of Nehemiah, I can't wait to go back through those months and months of notes and start sharing more here. I can't wait to organize the themes, the lessons learned and see how they might apply in this new season for us. What an amazing journey it is to study and breathe the Word, the living Word.