There are some things we go looking for, others just find us.
For me the stuff that found me has always been the most meaningful and exciting. I’m thinking of Zuko, I didn’t go ‘looking’ for her, just stumbled upon it and ‘wow!’ how amazing. Our kids. Our little house on the hill. My work at Kingfisher FM. Amazing stuff ‘finding’ me.
Just finding me.
There was a guy called Nehemiah who lived about 2500 years ago. He was a Jew. And it seems stuff sort of just found him as well.
I find solace in that.
He worked in the palace of the Persian King. Imagine ‘Prince of Persia’ then you’ll have some sort of idea. Persia is where Iran is, today, I think. He was ‘cup-bearer’ to the King of Persia. Not a small job. A rather influential one. Confedant. Advisor. Friend. Those words could describe this man’s ‘job’.
He was influential. He had the ear of the King. He lived in luxury. Moved in high circles. He was highly educated & well-spoken.
We’re fortunate to have his diary of sorts and it starts on the day a group of people from Jerusalem came to the palace. I think his story starts long before this. It starts with war. With a nation going into exile. With families being uprooted & torn apart. With a people forcefully moved to a new country to serve as servants.
I don’t know how many generations down the line Nehemiah is. But he is in the palace and he has not lost his connection with the country of his people’s origin. He starts his diary with these people coming from Jerusalem, talking of how bad things are. The wall is destroyed, leaving the city vulnerable to anyone who wants to plunder it. The city is empty. The people are desperate and afflicted. And Nehemiah is ‘touched’ by their account.
His diary says: when he heard of this he started crying for days on end.
Quite an emotional response.
Perhaps he was living in the safe illusion that everything was well?
And these travelers and their account, it burst his bubble, shattered his world?
For Nehemiah Jerusalem was more than a city. It was a symbol. Of the God he loved and shared life with. Of his glory. His grace. His honor and His Kingdom. Things which, from Nehemiah’s response, were clearly important to him.
He is upset. Emotionally upset & he acts on it. He prays for ‘good will’ & the goes before the King with the whole bag of tricks.
‘This is how it is’.
‘This is what I want to do.’
‘This is what I’ll need’.
And the King sends him off with everything he needs. He goes to Jerusalem. He rebuilds the wall in 52 days. 52 days! Then he puts measures in place to repopulate the city and create a community which doesn’t only live from God’s grace, but actually lives God’s grace. He spends 12 years in Jerusalem. He goes back to the King of Persia, reports on what he has been up to, then returns to Jerusalem & spends some more time there, organizing, working at this new regenerated community.
That is the short version, sort of an excerpt from his diary and what brought him to my mind was something entirely different & yet perhaps quite similar.
During December I was driving in our lovely coastal city as it was overrun by holiday makers from big cities who came to enjoy our 14 fabulous beaches. As I stop at an intersection, a pretty young girl in tight white shorts and an even tighter pink T-shirt gives me a flyer and a big smile. It is an advertisement for an amateur competition. They’re looking for entrants & for people to come to the event.
I’m nothing special. I’m not the only one getting this ‘invitation’. There is a whole crowd of pretty young girls in tight white shorts and pink T-shirts handing out these invitations at as many intersections all across the city.
‘Enter the amateur strip-competition! Great prizes up for grabs! Enter your wife or girlfriend! It’ll be fun & crazy. Or join us on this date, bring your friends & end your year with a bang!
So I’m not the judgemental type. Different strokes for different folks and all that. I drop the flyer on the floor of my car with many others promoting everything from purified water to the opening of a new restaurant. I don;t know if they do the same in the place where you live. You know, the flyer-handing-out-thing. Many trees sacrificed in the name of advertising.
Any way – we go off to the farm & the family for Christmas.
We have a fabulous time.
We read, eat, walk, swim, talk, play.
On month-end I’m back in town. I’ve got to do payroll, make sure everything is running smoothly at the radio station. The stuff that comes with the territory and I don’t mind, because I’m looking forward to some time over new year’s at the river.
I open the local newspaper. See what has been happening while I enjoyed the seclusion of the mountains. There it is with a promo on the front page: amateur strip competition a huge success. Some picture. Not too raunchy. And an article telling of everyone who entered their wifes and girlfriends, everyone who promoted and supported the event. The local celebrities who acted as judges. The prizes that were won.
Now I’m not the kind to get very weepy.
Okay, a good cry every now and then when I watch a ‘touching movie’, but not much more than that.
I relate better to the guy who in Steven Seagull style calmly sat down, braided a whip, then kicked over some tables whipped some people and told them what they could do with their ridiculous prices and profiteering from religion.
As I was reading the newspaper, here smack-bang between Christmas and New Year, putting the events together, I was overcome with disappointment.
Not so much in all the people who organized and promoted and even took part in the event.
More with where we find ourselves.
With the society we live in.
A place where it is quite ‘okay’ to enter your wife into a strip competition, even amusing and fun: ‘hey man look at that! That’s my wife! Have you seen her tits!?’
I was overcome with anger.
This is the world my son and daughters will grow up in.
A world where nothing is ‘sacred’.
A world where empty & superficial is fun.
A world in which ‘good’ and ‘kind’ and ‘positive’ has given way to ’empty’ and ‘destructive’.
I was overcome with the realization – something has ‘found’ me, like it found Nehemiah so many centuries ago.
I read his diary. Those first few days after the travelers from Jerusalem came with their tales of the old city. I see him weep. I hear him pray.
I don’t see him complaining to his God about the situation.
I don’t even see him asking God to do something about it.
I hear him saying to his God: “Open your ears. Open your eyes. Listen to me. This is what I am going to do about it & what I need from you is ‘good will’. ‘Good will’ with the people I’m going to ask to help me do this thing.”
And then he is off.
And he does his thing.
And so, I’m following his example.
“Open your ears, Lord. Open your eyes. Listen! I need you to create ‘good will’.
“I’m going to build this city.
“I’m going to do whatever I can to make it a place of justice.
“A place of kindness.
“A place of grace.
“A place of love.
“A place where wifes and girlfriends are embraced and cherished.
“A place where people connect.
“Where relationship is the heartbeat.
“A place where people can raise their families, easily. Where we can live meaningfully. And happy. And constructively.”
This thing ‘found’ me & I have no doubt about what I’m ‘charged with’ & I know, like Zuko & my kids & the little house on the hill, even this will be one of the awesome, amazing, exciting things.
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