Disclaimer: While Sacred Scraps may become a series, know that any commentary is not that of a scholar
but simply me gleaning meaningful scraps of the Sacred.
I like to read the weird books of the Bible sometimes. Sure, we hear from Genesis and the Psalms and the gospels and the letters of Paul all the time, but there are some books that seem neglected. Leviticus is interesting just because it gets a bad rap for being boring. The prophets are cool because we never hear them, it seems, except at the major holy days of Easter and Christmas. Either way, today, as I whined about not feeling like I have any direction to write, my husband suggested that I just read a bit. So I ended up in Ezra.
Really? I didn't even know who Ezra was other than I thought he was a prophet. In reality, he was a writer that tells the story of the rebuilding of the temple after it had been destroyed and the people had been captured and taken away.
How did I end up with Ezra? God has a sense of humor. I have been feeling disoriented as to which direction to follow, difficulty saying no, and wrestling with feeling empty. Sitting in the drive thru at McDonald's buying my husband's caramel mocha, I opened up my Bible, conveniently kept in my truck so that I don't have to be bothered with it during the week, and I read....
The first chapter tells us of a king who had a change of heart. Somehow, God had spoken to him, fulfilling the words of Jeremiah (One of my favorite prophets because when God called him to speak and Jeremiah whined about the potential backlash God pretty much said, "Dude, don't bother being afraid of them: you need to be afraid of me!"). But in verse 5 it says that "everyone whose heart God had moved..." prepared to go to work on the rebuilding.
I don't know about you, but I have difficulty waiting for that, for God to move my heart. Probably the curse of the prideful, type A, and resourceful overachiever. If there is a need and I can help, I do. Of course, I hate, and yes, a strong word but it does grit on me that much, when people easily dismiss needs because they "don't feel called." But I am sure that I can write a post solely on that another day.
These people were called, and then equipped. Their neighbors and the government sent them on their way with the things that they needed. I wonder-have I been called to anything? Or do I jump in because I can? I used to think I was called to something. I used to believe that there was a specific purpose for my life, but when it didn't materialize, I guess I lost direction, figuring that I had heard wrong. Now I am wondering again.
Those called, and accepted (some were turned away), got to Jerusalem to rebuild. Since the king had sanctioned their journey, one would think that it was all good to go, right? C'mon, when have you ever read a story in the Bible like that???
They set about rebuilding the altar in chapter 3 "despite their fear of the peoples around them..." Ugh, another little dagger sent my way. Why? Because I measure myself by someone else's yardstick. I am not the domesticated Suzy homemaker that I would like to be for my husband or to feel like I fit in at church. While I may keep trying to do what I do, I worry and lose time and energy with that fear. How much more might I achieve if I just measured myself by the yardstick that God gave me? How much of that energy would be better served building God's kingdom than mine? (Another ouch.)
Of course, when I am doing something, any skill really, I like to be very comfortable with it. I was on a recent hunt, my first one, and came home frustrated with myself. My rooster had escaped me. My dear husband tried to pull me back, to tell me that I had gained valuable experience. All I could think about was the pheasant that got away because I didn't get my safety off fast enough while I awkwardly shouldered my shotgun.
I like to do things well, right away, or earlier if possible.
Those people participating in the rebuilding didn't seem to feel that way. They began to assemble as God's people when the altar was complete, while the temple was still rubble. They understood progress is a process. I want that to become part of my spirit. That who I am, what I do, today is just this point, and I am in a process of building.
The process of building and rebuilding is not always a straightforward journey. In verse 12 of the same chapter, the younger people who were not attached to what was celebrated the now with shouts of joy while those who remembered what was felt loss and wept. It seems too easy to judge emotions-I should feel this or I shouldn't feel that. Perhaps, it would be kinder, and more genuine, to just feel whatever it is, note it, and keep working.
Chapter 4 brings in the opposition. I always see them as sneaky, back-stabbing scoundrels with big noses. Not sure what the big nose has to do with it, but that is the picture in my head. These guys, these enemies, try to gain an alliance of sorts, "let us help," but the hardworking Jews just brush them off, "You have no part with us in building a temple to OUR God." (emphasis mine)
It seems easier to try to keep the peace. "Sure, you can help a little," (while keeping some attention diverted to watch your back). "Well, when I say our God, whatever God you believe in is probably part of that, too." "We are open and affirming of all belief systems."
Not only does it require not being true to myself, it requires me to lie-about who I am, what I need, what I believe. Would that build up or tear down? Yep, while outwardly I may be built up, I am tearing down my inside. Soon enough, I would not be able to stand, and my enemies would win. I need to be cautious of who I allow to build with me.
Of course, just because I set boundaries and choose wisely doesn't mean the opposition stops.
"Then the peoples around them (you know-the sneaky, back-stabbing scoundrels with big noses) set out to discourage the peoples of Judah and make them afraid to go on building. They bribed officials to work against them and frustrate their plans...."
Now, they work at us from the periphery. Maybe they (the sneaky, back-stabbing scoundrels with big noses) tell me that I am not good enough, don't have the right equipment or supplies, am neglecting my home, am focused on the wrong things....more often than not, those sneaky, back-stabbing scoundrels with big noses, are voices inside my head...that I allow to discourage me, making me afraid that perhaps all those things are true and I really cannot (fill in the blank).
Again, I find God's sense of humor, that he brings me to a book, that I have barely heard of, to tell me that the answers are in the Book.
The story goes on that the scoundrels now have taken to gossiping and slandering the Jews to the government that sent them to rebuild in the first place. It seems that the power may have shifted and that promises may have been forgotten. But the Jews decide to keep rebuilding and write their own letter to the government stating that their permission was written down by King Cyrus, in a letter that should be in the library, if someone would just check. Someone in the government actually checked into this and the rebuilding is permitted to continue.
As I have been wrestling and arguing with myself, draining energy and being distracted, I have had answers all the time, in my own library. Of course, if I kept my Bible in the house it would be more accessible. Who would have thought, in Ezra, that I might find so much light for my path?