Have you ever felt like you just can’t leave home for any length of time without bedlam ensuing? Nothing irritates me more than people ignoring the rules just because I’m not there to enforce them for a while. Maybe that’s why Nehemiah 13 bothers me so much – it sounds like my life!
In Nehemiah’s narrative, he writes about all the things that went wrong in Jerusalem when he returned to the courts of King Artaxerxes. Storerooms in the temple had been repurposed as housing for a priest’s friend (and Nehemiah’s personal thorn in the side), which meant there was no room for tithes, so no one was giving food or supplies to support the temple workers, forcing the Levites to return to farming instead of taking care of the temple. The people were marrying off their children to foreigners who didn’t follow God, and they had gone back to working on the Sabbath instead of honoring it as commanded.
As moms, it’s easy for us to sympathize with Nehemiah’s plight.
When I was an Resident Director (think “mom” to 150 college women!), I was terrified to leave town for a few days for fear of what I would find when I returned. Inevitably, my students had set off the fire alarm, roommate drama had exploded, and several students had been reported for visitation violations.
Even in our own apartment, dishes would fill the sink and overflow onto the counters, FruitLoops would be ground into the living room carpet, and the trash can would be bursting at its seams. Then it would take weeks to get everything running smoothly again.
Do you resonate with this situation? What is it about the mama’s absence that leads everyone to think the rules and procedures no longer apply?!
I was in the middle of a grown-up temper tantrum over a recent such home disintegration, when God stopped me in my tracks.
Isn’t this how you treat MY rules? Just because I am no longer physically present with you doesn’t mean my commandments are any less valid.
Eek… Like Nehemiah, I get all indignant when my “people” don’t follow the rules, but I am just as prone to ignore what God has clearly laid out as His expectations for my life.
When I find myself in a tight spot, I lie to get out of trouble; I disregard the Sabbath when it feels like there’s just too much work to do, and I’ll fill my mind with garbage TV instead of spending time thinking about what I read in my devotions that morning.
I am not at all without blame in this department.
What about you?
We follow God’s example when we set up rules, routines, systems, and standards for our families. We do it for their GOOD. We do it so they will live well within their borders. God does the same for us.
And yet, when we repeatedly push those boundaries — or ignore them completely — we receive grace. Often we receive discipline and correction first, to bring about repentance and lasting change, but ultimately, God extends forgiveness and grace.
How can we not do the same?
The next time we are tempted to get frustrated with our husbands, students, or kids when they forget the rules, let’s remember this lesson from Nehemiah. Let’s remember our own guilt when it comes to forgetting the rules, as well as how God responds to our faithlessness. How He draws us back into alignment. Then, let’s do the same.
Once you’ve tackled the heart issues here, be sure to also load up your relational toolbox with the FREE Conquering Conflict Resource Guide — as well as all the info in this post for tackling confrontation with a Biblically-based model!
As a former University Resident Director, Career Counselor, Certified Personality Trainer, and high school Spanish teacher, Laura has quite the “scattered” background — with one underlying theme: education! She writes to teach and inspire women on topics related to faith, family, and lifework. She is also a resume writer, specializing in resumes for moms, career changers, and new graduates.