I’m slowly building a retaining wall right now. I’ve done plenty of research, it is certainly not something I started on an impulse, but I am finding that it is a much bigger, and more expensive job than I realised!
When we finally get it finished, anyone who visits will judge the quality of the job by what it looks like. Are the posts an equal distance apart? Are the rails level? But, what it looks like isn’t the real measure of quality. Only I will know how far into the ground the posts go. Only I will know how many bags of concrete I used. Only I will know if there is adequate drainage.
Often the important things, the things that determine whether the wall stands or falls, cannot be seen.
That’s the first question. How well built is it?
But there is a second question. Why am I building it?
In my case, I am taking an unusable slope, and turning it into three tiers. We’ll have a nice flat grassy area to enjoy. We’ll have a vege garden. We’ll have a seat at the top of our property that catches the last of the afternoon sun. It is going to be great! It’s also going to be more work.
Right now, all we do is get my teenager to trim the slope every now and then. Once it is done, we’ll have to mow the lawns properly. We’ll probably have to buy a small lawn mower. We’ll have to plant, fertilise, water, weed and harvest. It really would have been easier to just leave it as an unusable slope…
If we were to think about my retaining wall biblically, I hope that Nehemiah, rather than Jericho, springs to mind!
Nehemiah had a pretty good gig being cup bearer to the King. But there was an ugly unusable slope in his life – he cared about the Jewish remnant that had survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem. And so when he heard that his people were in great trouble and disgrace, that Jerusalem’s wall was broken down, and its gates burned, he mourned and fasted and prayed for days.
He could have ignored that unusable slope, but he didn’t. And it cost him. But, finally, the wall was rebuilt. I grew up knowing that the book of Nehemiah is about Jerusalem’s wall being rebuilt. That was pretty clear from Sunday School. But of course, it isn’t. The wall is completed by the end of chapter 6, but the narrative goes on for seven more chapters.
I’m not building a retaining wall – I’m creating a space for hospitality, for fun with my family, for growing vegetables and for sitting in the last of the afternoon sun. Nehemiah wasn’t building a wall, he was restoring a people’s relationship with God. More than that, he was restoring the worship of God.
This is why we do what we do. We go, to know God, and to make him known.