Next To

What I recall from most couples I’ve met who have talked of taking on home renovation projects together, is that while they may have saved some money, they stressed their marriage. Whether tiling together, painting together, or hanging pictures together, at times, they said, it was hard to keep it together.

But that’s not the case with a young couple I’ve become friends with. They actually find themselves at their best when they are shoulder to shoulder doing a home reno. Thriving when tearing stuff down and fixing it up again. It actually seems to be one of their love languages.

I saw this first hand awhile back when I was asked to come over to help a bit with the replacement of the double door entryway frame for their house. When I say help “a bit”, it was help “a bit” — anyone who knows me knows I can’t even spell handimann. But he needed an extra set of hands to help move the new frame off the truck up to the entryway. And when I arrived there she was . . . Sawzall in hand, cutting out the old door frame, sawdust flying all around her. And I’m seeing this again as, for their anniversary, they’re shipping off their kids so that they can enjoy a nice, quiet, romantic weekend together . . . replacing the roof of their house. Yup, re-roofing their house together on their anniversary. Who does that? Apparently, they do.

So, what’s this got to do with anything?

They came to mind this morning as I was reading in Nehemiah 3. Not because their roofing project resembles the Jerusalem rebuilding project, but because of two words, repeated 10 times, which caught my attention. I thought of them because of how the roof is bringing them “next to” one another just as the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem brought the people of God “next to” each other.

Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brothers the priests, and they built the Sheep Gate. They consecrated it and set its doors. They consecrated it as far as the Tower of the Hundred, as far as the Tower of Hananel. And next to him the men of Jericho built. And next to them Zaccur the son of Imri built. The sons of Hassenaah built the Fish Gate. They laid its beams and set its doors, its bolts, and its bars. And next to them Meremoth the son of Uriah, son of Hakkoz repaired. And next to them Meshullam the son of Berechiah, son of Meshezabel repaired. And next to them Zadok the son of Baana repaired. And next to them the Tekoites repaired, but their nobles would not stoop to serve their Lord.

(Nehemiah 3:1-5 ESV)

Something about a common task that creates community. Something about a job too big to do on your own that makes you reliant on others. Something about a cause worth living for that compels you to get out of the house and live among others. That’s what the wall was for Nehemiah & Co.

Priests (v.1), goldsmiths and perfumers (v. 8) — three very different occupations but with one over-arching purpose — next to one another. Not all doing the same job — some rebuilt walls, others reconstructed gates, others set doors, bolts and bars — but all working closely together. And because I know what’s in following chapters, they were ready to also stand together and fight together against opposition, if necessary, in order to complete the task God had set before them together.

And I can’t help think about how little, in some cases, the church comes together. Not just now in this COVID reality, but before all this, how little, outside of Sunday, we sought to be next to one another — even Sunday, so often, deemed as optional. More so, how the polarized rancor of the world has seeped into the church’s walls and we find ourselves more often than not nose-to-nose with one another in debate over non-essential things, and less and less shoulder-to-shoulder next to one another in unified service for the kingdom.

I wonder if, having lost a sense of being on common mission together, it has also quenched the desire to be next to one another in the trenches together.

I don’t know. But there’s something as I read Nehemiah 3 that stirs a desire for revival among the people of God. A renewal as to the task at hand and the calling God has made on us to do it next to one another. Making the main thing the main thing again. Knowing afresh that our lack of uniformity on secondary and tertiary matters shouldn’t impact our eagerness to maintain our unity (Eph. 4:3) as we go into all the world with the gospel.

Truly, how good and pleasant it is when brothers and sisters dwell together, and work next to one another, in unity. For there the LORD has commanded the blessing (Ps. 133). Amen?

By His grace. For His glory.

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2 Responses to Next To

  1. Brent Allan says:

    Yes, amen. I’ve always experienced that we humans always grow closer together when we work side by side with shared goals. And usually the tougher the work, the closer you get. Memories are made and characters are built…for all involved. Think about grueling sports workouts resulting in best childhood friendships or neighbors erecting a barn creating community. Coaching competitive swimming years ago, I’ve noticed team members who gruelingly pursued that little black line on the bottom of the Pool with a teammate in pursuit, remain best friends to this day. All the more, fellow believers putting our faith in action to help someone (or each other) in need when the going gets tough because we serve the same loving God.

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