Read |Nehemiah 2|
Early one summer morning, while vacationing on Jamaica's north coast, my mother extended her hand to safely guide me onto a glass bottom boat, destined for the deep blue of the Caribbean sea. We were on a mission to witness the life teeming beneath the waves. Snorkeling gear in hand, life vests on--we were set. I placed the snorkeling gear on and began the work we had set out to do. But, not soon after, I lost my nerve. There is a moment between breaths, where it feels like you are suffocating. I panicked and retreated to the safety of the boat. Over the years, I would have the opportunity to go snorkeling again. Over the years, I would reject those chances. The desire to see the great unknown hadn't died. But, my fear of suffocating had strangled my will to return, until this summer. The circumstances weren't any different than they had been before. Same water. Same gear. Same sensation. But, I was different. The little girl who retreated several years before had been convinced she was alone in this world--without supernatural aid. The woman who snorkeled with the stingrays at Dolphin Cove was one who knew that God was not only for her, but in her. She had come to believe the things He had said--that He loved her, had good plans for her and set her up for a life of liberty and love--not fear. This woman, strengthened by God, revisited the ruins of her past and came out victorious.
And little did I know, that this victory was only one of several victories the Lord had purposed for me in 2018. Two World Cups ago I considered taking my life. That moment was characterized by a heaviness of spirit and shame, it would seem impossible to erase. But, with God all things are possible. He has, one step of obedience at a time, by His Spirit brought me from under the dark cloud of that moment into the spaciousness of Jesus Christ. This June, I had the opportunity to participate in the City of New York's Mental Health First Aid Program. The program spanned a variety of topics pertaining to mental health, to include suicide prevention. As the program progressed, I felt the haunt of my past trying to bully me out of the room--trying to convince me that I was still a victim. I conceded to the fear and left the room for a great portion of the section on suicide prevention. The feeling I experienced retreating from the opportunity to explore the deep Caribbean Sea, was again rising in my chest. But, I don't think God liked the idea of me being bullied. And so He opened the door for another opportunity to stand strong in Him, in the face of my fear. Last week, I attended a seminar on suicide and resilience at Wesleyan University. Last week, I sat through, pressed in completely, testified truthfully and encouraged others to life, in the resurrection power of Jesus Christ. The fear was there, but greater was He in me than he in the world. (1 John 4: 4).
In the book of Nehemiah we are made privy to the work of rebuilding the ruined walls of Jerusalem. Nehemiah is moved by the report of the fallen state of Jerusalem and beseeches God, with his unadulterated grief, for a way to treat with the burden of his heart. (Nehemiah 1: 1 - 4). Nehemiah receives God's comfort and direction. He also receives God's provision to walk in His guidance. In the end, Nehemiah returns to Jerusalem under the authority of God to rebuild its walls and, prepare a place for the Jews to worship the Living God. (Nehemiah 2). Nehemiah had to return to the place of suffering in order to experience the resurrection power of God. (Nehemiah 2: 17 - 18). And his return made it possible for many others to safely return. His willingness to confront the taunt of the dead place, because He knew and relied upon His God, made way for a whole people to be drawn back unto God.
Beloved, where are the smoldering places in your life? Where lie the ruins? Where does death still taunt? Acknowledge these places. Bring your unadulterated grief to God and ask Him for the cure. And when He says to go back. When He says, to face the smoldering places, ruins and the taunt of death, do not be afraid. He is God for you and in you. He is God who loves you, has good plans for you and has set you up for a life of liberty and love. A life under the tyranny of fear and shame is not your calling. You are His daughter. Victory, by the resurrection power of His Spirit, is your call. Rebuild. Rebuild and trust that because He breathes on your labor, that where lovelessness, joylessness, faithlessness and hopelessness once reigned, His presence (the fullness of His deity) will make a difference. Return to the smoldering place and introduce it to Jesus.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for Jesus Christ. Thank you for inviting us, not only into His sufferings but, into His resurrection power. Thank you that we have the victory in Jesus. Thank you, that we are no longer slaves to fear. Thank you that we can live with an eyes wide open faith that acknowledges the smoldering places in our lives, without leading us to despair, because Jesus has conquered our enemy and proved futile his weapons against us. We invite you into these smoldering places. We invite you as the Resurrected King. We invite you to reign and restore your peace. In Jesus' name we pray, amen.
Carolyn Sinclair McCalla is a daughter of God, with a passion for encouraging women to embrace the fullness of God's love for them in Jesus Christ. She leads the Be-Held Community: a group of women seeking, living and being transformed by the truth of God’s Word together.