This devotion will show up in the Virginia Methodist devotion, Neighbors, this fall. But here it is now.
Fall is one of my favorite times of year. It brings football, colder weather, some family traditions, and usually the sort of kick-off events in ministry that draw in new people and opportunities. Because my life has been lived in “school years,” from my own experience as a student, then campus minister, and finally as a husband of a teacher and a parent, I find myself comforted by the “new start” that each fall brings. I like knowing that something new could happen, that my potential for these moments could be fulfilled.
In Nehemiah 1, the prophet has just received some bad news from his home city of Jerusalem. At this point, he’s just a cupbearer, not a prophet. But when he hears about the brokenness of his hometown, he prays a bold prayer to God, reminding God of his covenant with his people, and asking for grace and mercy. He confesses his sins and those of his people, and asks that God would grant him favor with the king. And out of that humble prayer, the walls of Jerusalem are rebuilt, and a prophet is born.
I wonder what bold prayers we should be praying as we head into fall. Are we needing a new, fresh start, or asking God to help us rebuild a formerly healthy thing that has broken down and is in need of repair? Do we need a God-sized pep talk like the halftime of a football game or do we need the gentle comfort that we are running the right way, and the hole will open up for us to explode into the end zone of this current situation?
One of my favorite halftime speeches comes from the film Friday Night Lights. Coach Gaines knows his players are up against it in their game against the bigger, badder opponents. But he stands before them and talks about perfection: “To me, being perfect is not about that scoreboard out there. It’s not about winning. It’s about you and your relationship to yourself and your family and your friends. Being perfect is about being able to look your friends in the eye and know that you didn’t let them down, because you told them the truth. And that truth is that you did everything that you could. There wasn’t one more thing that you could’ve done. Can you live in that moment, as best you can, with clear eyes and love in your heart? With joy in your heart?”
I pray that this Christmas, you’ll look back and recognized that you did everything that you could. That God used you, regardless of where you start this fall, to do everything possible for the kingdom of heaven. That you will have lived with joy in your heart. Pray boldly that God would use you to repair, restore, plant, create, and make new. Do it with all your heart; do it in the community of faith. Give it all of your attention, and know you are where you need to be. Because as they say, “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.”