Meeting our limits

by Marjorie George

Sometime in the fifth century, Nehemiah got the call. The Israelites were beginning to return from their exile in Babylonia and were rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem.  Learning that the walls surrounding the city were in rubble, Nehemiah sat down and wept, mourning for several days, for without walls the holy city was unprotected.

At the time, Nehemiah was serving as cup-bearer to the king of Persia and had curried favor with his highness, so he was in a position to do something about the Jerusalem walls. Boldly, he asked the Lord to let him take on the task, then asked leave of the king to go to Jerusalem; the king not only agreed, he paid for supplies to be used in the rebuilding.

After 52 days of work, the wall was finished — an unheard of accomplishment. Fifty-two days! What was Nehemiah’s secret? He broke up the work and assigned portions of the job to different groups. Families, clans, craftsmen’s guilds were each given a section of the wall. The high priest Eliashib set to work with his fellow-priests and rebuilt the Sheep Gate. The sons of Hassenaah built the Fish Gate; next to them Meremoth and his clan made repairs. Joiada and his family repaired the Old Gate. Pedaiah and the temple servants living on Ophel made repairs up to a point opposite the Water Gate on the east. No one tried to do everything.

How unlike those of us who think we have to do it all, all the time. Here, let me finish my task and do yours, too, especially if I think you are doing yours badly. Let me bail you out; let me take it all on. I am woman; hear me roar.

But not really. Sometimes I have to admit my limits. My hobby is renovating my house – I can tear up tile and lay down new floors; I can repaint walls and hang wallpaper; I have installed new cabinets and flagstone patios. But I have learned that when it comes to electrical or plumbing, I have to call in the experts. Fire and water may be lovely biblical symbols, but not in my living room.

It’s a hard lesson, learning that one can’t do it all. There are broken situations that I cannot fix, no matter how hard I wish to. There are people who will not be saved, no matter how hard I pray. In some things, I am powerless. When I am surrounded by rubble, I can’t rebuild the walls all by myself.

Some things simply have to be left in the hands of God, and we are not Him. He is the Creator; we are the created. We were each created to do something, but none of us was created to do it all.

Sadly, sometimes that means the walls don’t get restored, at least not in our lifetime. No amount of sweat, tears, and pick-axes make it happen. But there is also a certain ascending of joy and peace in the acceptance of our limitations. On our best days it forces us to rely more heavily on the One who can do it all, the One who will oversee the restoration of all things.

We can give Him a little help in that; but we can’t do it all.

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One thought on “Meeting our limits”

  1. I find it an interesting historical note that the King of Persia actually contributed to the erection of the new temple in Jerusleum. Maybe someone could remind the current rulers in Iran of this fact.

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