There’s building. And then there’s re-building.
My son is a builder-of-Legos. They are the first item on any birthday or Christmas wishlist and they are his favorite presents to open and play with as soon as the celebration time is done. In just six years, he’s amassed quite a collection of super-hero, Star Wars, and dinosaur Legos.
(And this is what can drive me crazy).
He does not keep his Legos together, perfectly constructed, high on a shelf, all the pieces still in the right places. (How could we possibly have enough shelving to do that?)
No, as soon as the Legos are built, they are played with relentlessly. Pieces come off. Those pieces then become new creations with pieces from other sets, a mishmash of Lego bricks.
There are some of us (me) who like things to always look like the instruction manual, as if there is a “Right” way to build with these Legos. When a piece comes loose, we pull out the picture and put it back exactly where it is supposed to go.
My son is not that person. He swaps dinosaur legs and superhero bodies, and he combines kits relentlessly. He is silly at times and innovative at other times.
Sometimes I envision having so much free time that we can spend days sorting the Legos back into sets and then following those instruction manuals once again to put them all together the right way once more. This sounds like the ultimate project for me. Get everything “right” and all will be right with the world.
That hasn’t happened yet.
It would take extensive time and great effort, of course, because I truly think building is far, far easier than re-building. Building starts with such a clean space. The pieces are clearly sorted and separated. Building does not begin with confusion.
But re-building starts with brokenness and mess and rubble and has to restore what’s broken and re-make or even re-design what is lost.
In the book of Nehemiah, God’s people rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem that had been destroyed by their enemies and had lain in ashes and mounds of rubble for years.
During the rebuild, they were taunted, mocked, and threatened by new enemies, and yet they kept working. Some guarded while others built. Some built with one hand holding a weapon and the other hand laying bricks. They refused to be sidetracked, delayed, or stopped.
The rubble, however, almost defeated them. Nehemiah 4:10 says:
In Judah, it was said:
The strength of the laborer fails,
since there is so much rubble.
We will never be able
to rebuild the wall.
” (Nehemiah 4:10 CSB).
That’s what almost broke them.
Kelly Minter writes in her study on Nehemiah:
It was that exhausting rubble that just about took them down. What rubble in your life is presently the most discouraging and exhausting? (p. 56).
This year, it’s easy to be defeated by brokenness. Ministries, jobs, finances, churches, school plans, friendships and connections with others… all may be in need of rebuilding, and such rebuilding is exhausting and hard.
We can’t just jump in with a brand new vision, a clean slate and build. No, we need to re-build. There are hurts tangled up in this. There is sadness over what is lost. There is stuff we have to let go of and get rid of. There is letting go of the known. There is anger and frustration. There is uncertainty. There is a feeling of helplessness and powerlessness because we have no control.
There is a tremendous desire to just get things back to the way they were before, the way they are “supposed” to be—and then set those constructions high up on a shelf so they can never be changed again.
That is not our reality. So we need God to equip us for the rebuilding, to strengthen us to face enemies and strengthen us to clear out the seemingly never-ending rubble and start raising the walls again.
Nehemiah said to the discouraged, worn-out, battle-weary people of Judah:
“Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your families, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes” (Nehemiah 4:14 CSB).
Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome.
This is not too much for Him. That is the reminder I need. It may take time, it may take creativity, it may mean hard work and standing against the Enemy.
The truth remains, though: Our God isn’t just able to build; He is able to rebuild. He has done it before and He can do it again.