This is for everyone who is currently in, or will ever be in, a leadership position…so it is for EVERYONE. No matter who you are, what you are doing, or where you are doing it, you are leading someone….even if that someone is yourself. No matter who you are leading (your children, your students, employees, family members, colleagues, friends, or yourself), you will often come to what I have started to call “Play it again, Sam” moments. Those dis-heartening moments when you find that the standard you have set is slipping, or the direction you pointed in was ignored, or the values you attempted to instill were abandoned. And you have a few options: throw your hands up in defeat, stomp out and let those idiots live in their own mess. Crumble into a paralyzed heap of blame and shame and quit. Or courageously “play it again.” Roll up your sleeves and re-establish the standard, re-orient people to the right direction, and re-inspire the values you hold dear.
The book of Nehemiah, chapter 13 records a poignant “Play it again, Sam” moment in the life of Nehemiah. He was the guy who returned to Jerusalem and lead the remnant of people who had remained in the city to re-build the wall and protect the newly-reconstructed Temple. And he did it in only 52 days, in the face of intense opposition from many enemies. For the first time in many, many years the people were engaging in worship of the One True God and living the way He had laid out for them to live. Things were great! Nehemiah had to return to the side of King Darius for a time (we don’t know exactly how long), and when he returned to Jerusalem, things were a mess.
They were letting a guy live in the temple (big disrespectful no-no); the people were not tithing or taking care of the Priests, and they were violating the Sabbath by holding market on that day each week.
I would have UNLOADED on everyone and stormed out of town…then collapsed into a paralyzed heap of self-blame and shame.
Nehemiah simply jumped in and set it right again, because he understood that leadership means often having to “Play it again.” He knew he simply had to say it again, correct again, teach again, enforce again, remind again, try again…because vision leaks and inspiration fades and short cuts look so good and mistakes are made.
In the middle of all this, three times he says “remember me O my God.”
Vs. 14 Remember me, O my God, concerning this, and do not wipe out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God and for his service.
Vs. 22 Then I commanded the Levites that they should purify themselves and come and guard the gates, to keep the Sabbath day holy. Remember this also in my favor, O my God, and spare me according to the greatness of your steadfast love.
Sounds like no one else was saying “Thank you for the butt-kicking and heart re-alignment.” Every leader can relate to that. People won’t hold back criticism, but thanks will often be sparing. That is OK, because we cannot live for human acceptance and praise. Cannot. Only God may thank you when you “play it again,” but His thanks is pretty incredible.
Lord, grant us the strength, courage, patience, and grace to “play it again.” In the event that no one thanks us, we will turn our ears and hearts to you. With humble hearts we trust you to see and remember our service to You, and we know that nothing compares to the One and Only God saying “thank you.” Thank You for showing us the way.