“I said to the king, ‘Let the king live forever! Why should not my face be sad, when the city, the place of my father’s graves, lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire? If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my father’s graves, that I may rebuild it.”
When you wake up every morning, inevitably two eyes will look you in the face. In some form or fashion, sin stares us down as soon as we awake. The brokenness of this world is inescapable, although we certainly do attempt retreat from it. In fact, that is one of the options you have every day when faced with the brokenness in your life: paralysis and retreat. You can see some broken relationship, some pain in your life, some tragedy, or even a besetting sin in your own life, and you can quit. You could throw your arms up, and feel so broken over the pain that you are paralyzed, unable to move in any direction but into yourself. However, there’s another option here, one many of us would prefer to take, and it is just as cowardly. We don’t even make it into the brokenness game, because we would prefer simply to ignore it. Act as if it isn’t even there. We live in this self made world where, if we see some effect of sin around us, we can operate in the bliss of ignorance. It is as if our chin is so turned up to the brokenness, that our eyes can see it. Or at least that’s the way we would prefer it.
But deep down inside of us, we all know these postures toward brokenness are a farce. Ignorance and paralysis are just two ways to make our own way out of the sin of this world. But unfortunately they can only get you so far. Consider Nehemiah here, who doesn’t run to either pole, but moves in a uniquely redemptive direction. His beloved city of Jerusalem is destroyed, and so how does he respond? He weeps, fasts, and prays for 4 months. He grieves. He mourns. He doesn’t let his heart get callous and jaded. He simply weeps. Yet at some point I imagine him, in the middle of this period or mourning and praying, remember the story that he is in. He gets caught up in the current of the river of redemption. He sees a picture of what God’s world is supposed to be like, and it includes a glorious city of Jerusalem, not a broken one. So he responds. He uses all of the practical, relational, political resources that he has, and he moves straight into the brokenness. He goes to the city to rebuild it.
What a picture of Jesus himself. Where would we be if Jesus looked at us with jaded ignorance, and just gave up? What if he just said, “They’re too far gone! There’s nothing that can be done!” And of course we know that he didn’t. He wept at the tomb of Lazarus. In the garden of Gethsemane, his soul was broken by the task before him. Luke tells us that “his sweat became like great drops of blood” as he considered the cross that was looming over him. And in this moment of conversation with his Father, time almost stands still. He could have quit then. He could have been so paralyzed by the pain he was about to feel, that he could have walked away. But he turned his face toward Golgotha, and he went. Our Savior wept, but he also redeemed. And that is our job as well. The world is broken, and we should let ourselves feel it. And then, with the power of the cross, we can move into the brokenness of this world as instruments in the hands of our blessed Redeemer.