“Then I got up during the night, I and a few men with me; I told no one what my God had put into my heart to do for Jerusalem. The only animal I took was the animal I rode.I went out by night by the Valley Gate past the Dragon’s Spring and to the Dung Gate, and I inspected the walls of Jerusalem that had been broken down and its gates that had been destroyed by fire” (Nehemiah 2:12-13).
“Then I [Nehemiah] said to them, “You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, so that we may no longer suffer disgrace” (Nehemiah 2:17).
The Book of Nehemiah is a book about the transforming power of prayer. It is also a book about leadership. Nehemiah has been sent by God to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and this task is going to take all of Nehemiah’s God given gifts and skills. It’s going to take vision, strategy, and teamwork. But also, solitude and motivation. Now motivation makes sense, but solitude? Yep, it’s going to take some time of meaningful solitude to rebuild the crumbled wall of Jerusalem.
When Nehemiah arrives in Jerusalem, his first order of business is to take time for silence and solitude… for three days (see Nehemiah 2:11). It is during these three days that Nehemiah observes, reflects, and learns (see Nehemiah 2:12-13). This is the side of leadership that most folks never see. The hours, days, and weeks, of praying, planning, and practicing. Moses spent 40 years in the desert. St. Paul spent three years in Arabia (see Galatians 1:17-18). Jesus was always taking off for silence and solitude. Great leaders know how to leverage “down time” as a catalyst for “on time”.
So, what was Nehemiah doing in silence and solitude for three days? He was doing his homework. By the light of the moon, Nehemiah was gathering facts, taking measurements, inspecting the damage, and putting together a master plan. A wise person once said, “Character is who you are when nobody’s looking.” Great leaders know how to lead themselves in times of silence and solitude.
How might you make better use of silence and solitude?
In silence and in solitude, Nehemiah did his homework. For three days, he prayed and planned. Then he gathered God’s people together to motivate them for the task at hand. “You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, so that we may no longer suffer disgrace” (Nehemiah 2:17). Please read Nehemiah 2:17 again, and circle the words: we, us, we. Why does Nehemiah use the pronouns “we” and “us”? What does this type of language communicate to those who hear these words? It communicates that I am in this with you. That we are in this together. Hand me some mortar. I’ll give you a stone. Let’s build this wall together.
Great leaders motivate great teams to do great things, not by command of “you” or “me”, but in the promise of “us” and “we”. And how do God’s people respond to Nehemiah’s motivation? “…they said, “Let us start building!” So, they committed themselves to the common good” (Nehemiah 2:18b). Hand me some mortar. I’ll give you a stone. Let’s build this wall together.
Where in your life or work could you use a bit more “us” and “we”?