When you are trying to explain something to someone, and you see understanding dawn on their face, how do you feel? What if you are trying to explain to your child why what they did was wrong? When they finally understand, and really get it, are you still mad at them or do you feel relieved or maybe even a little joyful?
Nehemiah is my favorite book of the Bible. I have studied it on my own and through other studies, so when I found out the Bible study through Revelation Wellness was based out of Nehemiah I felt connected. I will admit that ego said I might not learn a lot from it, but boy was ego wrong.
One thing that has stuck with me strong is Chapter 8. The walls are built, the people are taken care of, and now Ezra is reading the Word of God to the people. They begin to wail when they have understanding of all they have done wrong, but Ezra and the Levites tell them not to be upset. They tell them to be joyful. Nehemiah tells them, "The joy of the Lord is their strength." Then the people went and celebrated with their family, friends, neighbors, and strangers.
So, what's going on here? It seems like a celebration of everything that has come before, at least that was how I read it in the past. My new understanding is that the celebration is for knowing better.
I have carried a fair amount of shame in my heart and mind and body for things I have done in my past. None of us are perfect, we all make mistakes and sin, we do. But when I looked at who I once was I felt shame and disappointment in the choices I made.
This is where the people were when the Word of God had been read. They realized the errors or their way, the sins they had committed, and the ill-fitting choices they had made. They were God's people, but they had not been living the way their God wanted. They were broken. They were full of shame. They were regretful.
And we all need to get to that point. We need to realize when we are living in a manner not in line with what God wants for us. Until we hit that point we wont make any changes.
And that's when Ezra, Nehemiah, and the Levites come in.
You can find joy now for you are no longer going to live in the same manner. You can have joy because now you know better. You can embrace joy because you are no longer the person who made those choices. You are new. You are different. You have understanding.
Imagine God standing in front of you, talking to you, sharing what is important to His heart, trying to get you to understand why it's important and that you are loved. And then the realization of what he is saying finally sinks in and you get it.
"Dear Lord, now I understand. Now I get what you are saying."
And He smiles, looks down on you in love, gives you a hug. and is joyful for your understanding and fresh start. And in that you gain strength to follow what you know. Because in His joy over you, you gain strength.
And each time you gain more understanding, a deeper realization, a fresh perspective, He is looking down on You with joy and you can gain strength from Him.
So instead of looking backwards and feeling shame for the things we have done, let us live with joy in how God has taught us better. Let us gain strength knowing God is joyful we are listening to Him. Let us embrace joy rather than shame, and let us allow others to do so as well.
Shame is not a sign of repentance. Turning away from what we once knew, and turning fully towards God is a sign of repentance. We should have joy now that we are with God rather than against Him.