I've been studying the book of Nehemiah in preparation for teaching our teen girls Sunday School class. This book, as well as Ezra, is about return. The people physically return to the their homeland. Under Ezra, they rebuild the temple. Yet some still weep because even its present glory couldn't compare to its former.
Then the people rebuild the walls of Jerusalem under Nehemiah's leadership. They return the city to the structure of strength it once was. Yet many scholars believe Nehemiah's wall to be much smaller in circumference than the original.
And then, most importantly, the people return to the Book of the Law. They read about the Feast of Tabernacles and God's constant dwellingplace with His people, even in the wilderness. They weep and mourn for their disobedience in not keeping this feast since the days of Joshua, some 900 years earlier. But they return and keep the feast, with rejoicing in the unchanging character of their God. They read of how they were to be a holy people, set apart from the pagan influences of the surrounding cultures. And they do the hard work of returning to that sanctity, many of them by divorcing foreign wives.
So too in our lives, we can't always go back. We can't undo mistakes, take back words or change our actions. We don't even get a second chance to take advantage of missed opportunities. The people of Israel made a choice to worship other gods. Their long captivity was the consequence, God's judgment.
But we can always return. We can go back to the place we left behind and we can start over. This is the Biblical idea of repentance, turning from our sin back to God. We so easily stray after sin, "prone to wander," as the songwriter aptly describes. But we can always return to our God. There is not even a "shadow of turning" with Him (James 1:17). He remains constant and faithful, waiting to welcome us back as the father of the prodigal son in Luke 15. He offers abundant grace and mercy when we return to His throne (Heb. 4:16).
Why, then, is it so hard to return? I fear it is our pride that keeps us from turning back. It takes true humility to admit our sin and return to Christ. And it takes grace to remain at the foot of the cross when Satan constantly reminds us of the far-reaches of sin we came from and tempts us to come back.
I can't help but think of Naomi, another character we've studied in our girls SS class. She left her homeland in famine and some would say experienced God's judgment for doing so in the loss of her husband and sons. But she returned and what did she find? Not only food in abundance, but a redeemer for her dying family. What grace!
It's been almost two and a half years since I last posted. . . So much has taken place since June 2011 - a second child, a new job, a new house, a new life for our family - and I haven't written a single sentence! But now it's time to return. I've been burdened lately to come back to the discipline of writing, putting my thoughts down on electronic "paper." Not necessarily for you, the reader (because I really don't think there are many, if any!). But for me. I need to remind myself of the ordinary miracles present in my life - like grace for the repentant, returning sinner.
So at the risk of admitting my failure, past and probably future too, I officially return to blogging! May God give me grace. :)