“May we so pass through things temporal that we lose not the things eternal.”
This was my daily prayer during the years when my boys were tiny, and even though I’m not from a tradition that uses prayer books or puts the emphasis on the first syllable in the word “collect,” I’ve recently started praying these words again. I’m “passing through” a different kind of temporal these days, but my grasp of the eternal still seems just as slippery. And as I study Nehemiah 4, I find myself wondering if Nehemiah ever looked at the wall and the rubble and the people of God, and regretted the inconvenience of it all. If he did, I certainly don’t see it in the decisive way in which he regroups and rallies the crew to keep on building; and I confess that I don’t hear it in the matter-of-fact way in which talks about his strategy for defense: “Our God will fight for us.”
He’s still the same Nehemiah of the chapter two “arrow prayer”: “So I prayed to the God of heaven and I said to the king . . .”
If you know that God will fight for you, what’s a little inconvenience? Still, somewhere along the way, I have detected a subtle selfishness in my “no’s,” and I began to sift my motives. Am I saying “no” to this request because what the bright-eyed boy wants to do is unreasonable? Or (cringe) am I saying “no” because I don’t want to bother with the inconvenience of it? As a result, I’ve become a champion of my children’s option to “inconvenience” their mother, and I’m drawing the circumference loosely enough here to include more than middle-of-the-night vomit clean-up. I’m remembering requests for an extra chapter from The Hobbit at lunch time, for a day with the easel left standing in the kitchen, for sewing up a hole in the favorite stuffed animal before bedtime, and for a shivering three minutes on the snowy deck to “watch this!” I’m thankful to have been brought up short, to have received that quiet reminder to embrace inconvenience as part of the call to mothering.
Nehemiah never seemed to lose sight of the fact that he was building a wall to enclose a nation-state that would represent God before the people of the earth. For that high and holy calling, no inconvenience was too great. Like Nehemiah, mothers live a life of swords and shovels, but sometimes we forget that it’s not about the wall — it’s about the people inside the wall.
So, the words of that prayer are not my own, but they frame my heart away from the deadly details and into the mindset of a builder: “With you as our Ruler and Guide, [may we] so pass through things temporal that we lose not the things eternal.”
Do you find that you lose sight of your calling in the details of “wall-building?” If you’d like to leave a comment or a link to your own post about your wall-building stories, I’d love to read it. This post is the thirteenth in a series based on the book of Nehemiah, travelling slowly and thoughtfully through the chapters with my Sunday School class. If you want to catch up with previous posts, here’s the link: https://michelemorin.wordpress.com/tag/nehemiah/