Yesterday I started reading Ezra. The exiled Israelites are returning to rebuild the broken and abandoned temple. After years of turning away from God, years of idolatry, years of ignoring the prophets, God’s children are exiled and their greatness is obliterated. From a nation that others admired and feared, they became humiliated into lowliness. But God never left them. He loved them. He starts to bring them back from their scattered locations into the ruined city. He provides them generous portions to rebuild. After the new foundation is laid over the old, the younger generations shout in joyful celebration. At the same time, the older generations lament with equally deafening sorrow having seen the original structure and remembering the glory of old.
The analogy is not perfect, but I feel that God has been breaking down our idolatry. He is wanting more for us. The banishment feels harsh at times, but we know He will never leave us. We know He wants to rebuild us. In the rebuilding, there is both joy and sorrow.
Mike and I are very fortunate. We are for the most part able to get by on our own. Until now. I have always been the one who loves to help out, to give, to try to be there for others. It feels good to be needed. It feels good to help. In the purest sense, it is godly for it truly is better to give than receive. In the worst sense tainted by human nature, it is superiority. I am adding to the debts others owe (though I would never expect them to pay me back), but at least I am never owing others. I like that state. I like keeping my tab clear, in the black, with any temporary lapses in the red rectified in some shape or form sooner or later.
Being crippled by Mike’s serious health issues, our uncertain future, our emotional devastation, and the looming doom of even further disruption to our idyllic life, we have become acutely aware of the love of others. There have been so many who have cared for us in so many ways that I cannot even begin to list them all. It is humbling my big fat pride down to devastating depths.
When I first joined our church, I loved how when someone had a baby there would be a schedule for meal delivery. I was always eager to sign up and deliver and did so for several years whether I knew them well or not. However, when I was the parent with a newborn, I adamantly refused the service. Mike accidentally accepted at first, but I quickly enforced my veto. I had the luxury of my super-serving mom for over a month who fed me well; that was my excuse. Plus, we had the means to order take out and loved to keep many easily accessible restaurants in business. How could I have someone drive into downtown traffic, circle for parking, and use preciously budgeted money towards feeding us? Never!
I believe God doesn’t take pleasure in our pain. I doubt He was gleefully dancing when His beloved children were looted and taken into Babylon. I do not think He enjoyed seeing the ornate temple trashed and the people utterly dismayed. However, His love for his idolatrous people would not allow them to stay in their comfortable but far-from-Him ways. He knew that even if to the world at large they seemed to be doing well, adapting to the cultural norms, and growing in prosperity, their hearts were far from Him. He could not leave them that way knowing that nearness to His heart was worth the pain of exile and devastation. He wants to rebuild them as His precious people.
God is wreaking havoc on my idol of self-sufficiency. I hate putting people out. I will find ways to “pay” them back or let them off the hook. In most cases, I will not answer when they ask how they can help. Sometimes they are stubborn and find ways to force me to be on the receiving end. When they make a prayer chain to cover our family, I cry from being moved by their care. Then I feel guilty. Are there not more worthy things for which to intercede? I can name at least a million! But I am trying to be near to His heart, to accept and allow them to be His care and love, and to know that my debt is truly beyond my ability to pay. They are teaching me again the truth of the Gospel. We can never repay all that we have received. Thanks to all of you (you know who you are!) for this hard lesson of truth, humility and grace.