The 20-oughts was a tough decade for me and for my newspaper. A close friend and one of the best bosses I ever had died in a car wreck. A new editor proved to be a nightmare, and newsroom politics tore the staff apart. Editors came and went, but real leaders were scarce.
After three decades as a journalist, I accepted a buyout offer in December 2009, and left.
For a couple of months in this new decade, I reveled in my freedom and did little. But it’s disorienting to be suddenly free. I panicked on a daily basis, applying for jobs indiscriminately.
What’s missing here is structure, and God. While dwelling in purgatory for 10 years, I became an infrequent penpal to the Almighty. Scripture, once a primary source of sustenance, went unread. Prayer and worship were hollow. I began to think that God would soon decide that my life just wasn’t worth the resources I was consuming.
I’ve decided to go back to the basics. The alarm is set at an early hour. I’m dressed, eating at the dining room table, performing chores on schedule. And I’m reading. This morning, I began the Old Testament book of Nehemiah. I thought I’d chosen it at random, but clearly it was chosen for me.
The walls around the city of Jerusalem had been destroyed by its enemies, and the Jewish people who had returned there from exile eked out a demoralized existence. Without city walls, they were vulnerable to attack. And living surrounded by the demolished remains destroyed any sense of pride.
Nehemiah, a cupbearer to the Persian king and a man of prayer, mourned for his kin in Jerusalem when he heard the details of their lives. The king noticed his sadness and, in what must have been a huge sign of respect for this servant, asked what was up. Nehemiah prayed, then explained. Soon, he was on his way to Jerusalem, not only with the king’s blessing, but with access to the king’s trees that would be needed to rebuild the holy city’s walls.
I have much more to read in Nehemiah, but I’m grateful to my God, who recognizes when a lowly servant needs lifting up. It’s time to rebuild, in a way that will honor Him.