One of my favorite Bible characters is Nehemiah. I absolutely love reading his story, because it is one of a man who loved his home and his people. I get that. I love my home, and my people. They are my favorite.
While living in captivity in Susa, serving the king, Nehemiah’s heart longed for home. In the first chapter of the book, we see that when he heard about the destruction of the wall of Jerusalem, he mourned. His home was destroyed and it broke his heart.
I get that. I understand the longing for home. The desire to see it be what God intends it to be. To hurt when there is brokenness in the home and to see the devastation of the enemy's attack on home.
My husband and I have been in ministry for nearly 15 years, married for 13 of those. I have been privy to some of the deepest brokenness in homes that one can imagine. I have sat and listened to stories from young and old people alike, telling of the pain and brokenness of their home. The damage done to their hearts, souls and bodies is staggering. My heart breaks and I mourn the loss of what should have been a safe place of love and restoration for them.
It is the devastation of his people and his home that lights a fire in Nehemiah’s belly, and he cries out to God day and night for mercy. Then he gathers his courage and asks the king to allow him to return home and rebuild the wall surrounding Jerusalem. He is allowed to go, generosity flowing from this enemy king in a way that points to the sovereign mercy of God.
Nehemiah returns home and begins rebuilding the wall. Enemies try to stop he and his team, so they build with one hand and hold swords in the other. Nehemiah not only will rebuild the wall, but he will defend it with his life.
There is something here for us to pay attention to.
Home is a place where life lives itself out and creates new life in the process. We are born and then we die, and in the middle is a whole life that is lived in this place called home. Home is where our people are. The people we love and are called to care for, disciple and defend.
Sadly, home is not always viewed as a place of life. Most often, it is seen as a place of drudgery. We come home from hard work and play and there are spaces waiting to be cleaned and lawns waiting for attention. Some of us spend all our time maintaining home, striving for unnecessary perfection only to have it all undone, and end the day exhausted with a to do list that never stops. This seems like busy work that distracts us from the heart of what home is about - a place for displaying the grace of God to the broken world he loves. Not that we shouldn’t do housework (I keep hoping the mountain of laundry will someday magically disappear, so far...it hasn't happened), but we can easily lose focus on what home is really about and reduce it to an overbearing chore list.
Some find home a place of unrest and sadly, even violence. Home is not a haven, it is a war zone. And this affects us in the most wretched ways possible. A lifetime can be spent trying to undo the damage that has been done at home.
Yet, that was not the intention of home when God created it. The home he created was safe, nourishing and beautiful. This is what home is meant to be. This is what we truly want our homes to be. Each of us longs for a place to rest, be loved and restored from the pain and struggle of life.
Ultimately, we are longing for our true home. The one Christ has prepared for us. Our souls long to be with Him, resting in his unconditional love and acceptance. We long to be restored and nourished after a lifetime of pain and struggle. Until then, we find ourselves trying to create heaven on earth in many different ways. There is no lack for home shows, magazines, blogs and products to help us create the perfect home. Still, it doesn’t fill us in the deepest part of ourselves, because it is not the home for which we were created.
Perhaps you grew up in a broken home. Perhaps the home you are in now is dysfunctional at best. Perhaps the task of rebuilding the spiritual walls of your home seems unrealistic. Maybe there seems to be too many enemies.
I have good news.
God can heal the hurt of violent acts that have been committed inside the walls of home. He can restore broken marriages. He can bring home hard-hearted children that have rebelliously gone their own way. He can give us the grace to cultivate a home that reflects His gospel purposes to others. He will give us glimpses of our eternal home as we gather together in our homes to share life with each other.
God can redeem our homes.
My prayer for you today is that you will have the courage to seek help if you have found yourself in a violent home. There are people in your community who want to help you. Do not be afraid to ask for help, God is with you. I pray that if you are one who finds yourself causing hurt to those in your home, that you will also seek help. God can redeem your heart. I am also praying for those of you who have simply forgotten the purpose of your home. May you be reminded of the mission that lies within your own walls. The mission of the gospel has been placed in your hands, and your home is the platform God has provided for you to share His message to a world that is searching for Him.
“The strength of those who bear the burdens is failing. There is too much rubble. By ourselves we will not be able to rebuild the wall.”… And I looked and arose and said to the nobles and to the officials and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives and your homes.” Nehemiah 4:10, 14