11 I went to Jerusalem, and after staying there three days 12 I set out during the night with a few others. I had not told anyone what my God had put in my heart to do for Jerusalem. There were no mounts with me except the one I was riding on.
13 By night I went out through the Valley Gate toward the Jackal[a] Well and the Dung Gate, examining the walls of Jerusalem, which had been broken down, and its gates, which had been destroyed by fire. 14 Then I moved on toward the Fountain Gate and the King’s Pool, but there was not enough room for my mount to get through; 15 so I went up the valley by night, examining the wall. Finally, I turned back and reentered through the Valley Gate. 16 The officials did not know where I had gone or what I was doing, because as yet I had said nothing to the Jews or the priests or nobles or officials or any others who would be doing the work. – Nehemiah 2:11-16; New International Version (NIV)
I know I’m making a generalization, but I’ve found it to be true in my life and in my observations of others – Americans are very fond of making big announcements. We love telling each other, and the world at large, of what we are going to do next or how our newest idea is going to change everything. We announce our diets. We announce new exercise plans. We announce when we vote. We announce new visions for our church. And so on.
And, I was the worst. I had a methodology that worked all over the world. Millions of people from difficult to reach people groups have fallen in love with Jesus and thousands of churches have been birthed as a result of what God taught my father. So, when I came to Oregon, I promptly set up meetings and trainings to share what I was absolutely convinced would save the Pacific Northwest.
After all, in my very flawed thinking, if they could do it on their own wouldn’t they have done it already?
I am ashamed of the unchecked arrogance that flowed through my veins. I am also very grateful for the men and women who became my friends even though I reeked of pride.
God called me to the Pacific Northwest.
He used my past experiences to equip me to be part of what He wants to do here.
But, I led with pride and conviction of my methodologies and legacy rather than a deep love of people and gratitude that God would even want to use me at all. I hit wall after wall and thought the barriers were theirs rather than seeing they were mine.
Now, after failing a lot, I realize that love listens first. God’s call, His equipping, and our experience is intended to give us the confidence to listen and learn. Love shies away from public announcements and comes alongside weary saints. Love whispers, “God hasn’t forgotten you. How can I help?” Love celebrates their accomplishments. Love weeps with their disappointments and frustrations. Love learns from their experiences.
Love for God and love for people compels us to listen.
And, when God creates the moment, love doesn’t hesitate to say, “Well, God has taught me some things…I may be wrong…maybe they can help…can we do this thing together?”
Nehemiah had a call. He had conviction. He had a mandate and resources. But, rather than announce his attentions to Jerusalem, Nehemiah began with a quiet ride through town with a few friends to see and to understand what was going on.
Nehemiah loved his God, his people, and his city. Love compelled him to listen. And, after listening, he didn’t shy away from the work that loomed in front of him.
And, after we spend time listening, neither should we.