In the beginning of the book of Nehemiah, the Israelites have just recently been granted return from exile in Babylon. Upon their return to Jerusalem though they come to realize that their city is in ruins, with it’s wall broken down, and it’s gates burnt up.
This may not seem like such a big deal to us, but this was God’s city. This was the place where the Spirit of God was supposed to dwell, it was supposed to be the shining city on a hill that caused all other cities to shrink back in fear because the favor and the glory of the living God dwelt there. Having broken down walls and burnt gates was not an accurate depiction of the power, might, and awesomeness of God.
For some reason, the narrator of this book is a man named Nehemiah, a cupbearer under King Artaxerxes in the citadel of Susa. At the beginning of the book, Nehemiah is visited by one of his brothers, Hanani, and informed of the current decrepit state of Jerusalem’s walls. In an instant, Nehemiah’s reaction is one of absolute despair. He sits down, weeps, mourns and prays for days on end before God in heaven.
This may seem a bit overdramatic, but what Nehemiah experiences in this moment is extremely profound. If we break it down, Nehemiah is experiencing something that all great influential leaders experience, a broken heart. At the beginning of a movement, at the root of a revolution, there sits one man or one women who looks at the world or a community or a company in it’s current state and says, “something is not right here” “something is not as it is suppose to be.” A broken heart is where great movements start, and it’s where leaders are born.
Nehemiah was not a wall builder when God broke his heart for the wall at Jerusalem, he wasn’t even a leader, he was a cupbearer. He did not have the proper skill set in order to mobilize, plan, and execute such a bold feat of construction, but that did not stop Nehemiah from listening to his broken heart.
The prayer of “break my heart for what breaks yours” is extremely popular in contemporary Christian culture, and not just because of Hillsong United. Christ followers today long to bring justice into the world. We long to have moments like Nehemiah where our hearts break and we say, “something isn’t right here.” In order to set things right though, in order to usher God’s justice onto the scene, we must act, and that is where most of us get severely caught up. We look at the problem or circumstances that are breaking our heart and we say, “well that’s not really my wheelhouse”, “ministry wasn’t part of my major in college, I don’t have the skill set.”
Something I constantly repeat to myself every day is, “Don’t stop at heartbreak.”
Heartbreak is not the end of the journey, for most heroes of the Bible, heartbreak was just the beginning for them realizing God’s call on their life, regardless of skill set. The revolutions of scripture were not brought about by those who were qualified for the job, they were brought about by normal men and women whose hearts were so deeply broken that they stopped at nothing to set things right.
Nehemiah certainly did not have the skill set to build a wall, but his devotion to God was so deep that when God broke his heart for the cause, his skill set no longer mattered. He was used to mobilize and entire community of misfit exiles come and re-build a wall, and guess what, most of them were not wall builders either! The majority of the wall’s builders were priests and goldsmiths, not construction workers. Occupation and skill set did not matter though, because hearts had been broken, and a fire had been ignited.
What breaks your heart?
It might be your calling, regardless of your skill set.
A broken heart is not the end of revolution, it’s the beginning.
If we stop and heartbreak, we lose, and injustice wins. But if we allow heartbreak to be the spark, we can bring about unimaginable change, and we can set things right.