When the Going Gets Tough…

August 1st, 2007 • Category: Variety Week
by Tammy Mills

Today’s scripture: Nehemiah 2:11-20, 6:1-9; 15-16 (NRSV) (The Message)

As you read, consider these questions: What might God be saying to me in this passage? What jumps out at me? Summarize your thoughts in a sentence or two before reading on.

My thoughts on this passage (Tammy Mills):

For many years I helped coach a 5- and 6-year-old girls’ softball team. (Now I know what you are thinking — “How does someone who is so unsporty become a coach?” — I volunteered!) While coaching that team I encountered many wonderful, spirited young women, but the one who sticks out most in my mind was Laura. Laura loved playing softball, but the reality was, she didn’t have a skill level as high as the other girls. That didn’t seem to stop her, though. She would stand out in the field, and try harder than any other member of the team. It never seemed to faze her that no matter how much she tried she couldn’t catch a thing.

Her batting skill level was even lower than her fielding skill level. The whole season had come and almost gone and Laura hadn’t gotten one hit. My heart ached for her. Laura just kept playing.

The last game of the season came around, and true to form Laura was the heartiest and the worst player at the game. I remember watching her as she came up to bat for what would be her last bat of the season. I prayed to the Almighty that she would get a hit! No one deserved it more that Laura!

Strike 1!

Strike 2!

Then, seemingly effortlessly, her bat connected with the ball. She hit a solid grounder to the pitchers mound — which in my league almost guarantees a triple. Sure enough, she rounded second and I (the third base coach) waved her to third. When she got on the base I picked her up and the whole team came rushing out to celebrate! Never mind there was still a game going on!

What a determined spirit Laura had! She was committed to playing softball, no matter what.

The main character in our reading today, Nehemiah, had the same kind of spirit as Laura. Here’s the Reader’s Digest version of the story of Nehemiah: Nehemiah was minding his own business, working hard for the king. His family comes to visit him and informs him that their ancestral homeland is in ruins, especially the walls that had surrounded that great city Jerusalem. Nehemiah’s heart breaks at this news. He begins to pray and ask God what God would have him do. Much to Nehemiah’s surprise, God tells him he is to rebuild the walls. Now, Nehemiah is not a builder, he is a wine taster! How is he going to rebuild the walls? Wouldn’t an architect or engineer be better suited for this task?

Putting doubt aside, Nehemiah asks for the time off and heads back to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls. While building the walls of the city his enemies mock him, attack him, and even those who are helping to build the walls start to bicker amongst themselves. I am certain Nehemiah felt like quitting when all these forces kept coming against him, but he didn’t. He kept putting one brick on top of another! The result of Nehemiah’s dogged determination was a rebuilt wall of Jerusalem in record time.

This story challenges me to have a more determined spirit. I am often quick to give up on the things God is calling me to do. When someone starts to mock me or I realize what I am about to do isn’t going to make everyone happy, I want to abandon the project. When I think my skill level is way lower than others I want to bail!

But Nehemiah and Laura remind me of what I need to do — to borrow a phrase, “Just Do It!”

Thought for the day: What do I know that I need to do? What is “one brick” I can add to that wall today?

We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to start, consider the guidelines on the How to Pray page.

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