I have thought a lot about restoration of relationship this summer. What is going on in the news, the church and in my own life has this phrase bouncing around in my head. There isn’t a time in our life when we aren’t called to restore relationship.
But it’s scary, isn’t it?
Today I read about Nehemiah. He is the cupbearer to King Artaxerxes. An Israelite estranged from his land and people. Nehemiah hears about the plight of his people in Jerusalem and asks to return. When he gets there, the temple is rebuilt, but the walls and gates are a mess. The city is vulnerable. Very few Israelites lived there and even though many recommitted to covenant with God they were scared. So scared, that even when the walls and gates were rebuilt by Nehemiah, no one wanted to live there.
It was safer outside the secure walls and gates.
Nehemiah cast lots and moved people back to the city. The most disappointing lottery ever. A winner here had to move back to the city and fill the vacant areas. This move strengthened the security of Jerusalem, but left the people inside scared on how to live in community they didn’t feel safe in anymore.
How does this relate to restoration of relationship?
It is easy to rebuild a relationship from the outside. We ask for forgiveness, are given forgiveness and extend forgiveness. All of it from a distance and all of it without trust that the relationship is truly restored. We did the work of rebuilding, but left out our hearts.
When God calls us to restore he doesn’t just ask us to forgive. We are to pick up our hearts and move to where the relationship is. Oftentimes we fail at restoration because we refuse to align our outer lives and our hearts.
Our hearts are firmly camped outside the walls of relationship. We’ll do the right thing, but we’re too afraid to feel like it made a difference.
This is true in my own life. When relations are strained, I may leave lines of communication open, but I stay where I am. I don’t want to move towards the other person, unless I’m forced to. If I reconcile a relationship, but leave the space next to it empty, aren’t I inviting invaders to come and tear down the walls I just rebuilt?
Aren’t I say I don’t trust the relationship?
Aren’t I saying, “We’re cool, but I still don’t believe it?”
This passage in Nehemiah has me thinking and wondering what it would take to move back into a deserted city. A place I may not be received into. A home that will cause me more work and heartache. A space I may fail in.
The problem is, I assume I move there alone and I forget a neighborhood of love goes with me.
Instead of staying where I am, maybe it is time to pack up and move? I need to accept vulnerability, uncertainty and unease, knowing that is the only path to true restoration. It is going to be hard, but I am not alone.
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