The familiar pangs of nostalgia swept over me as I slowly advanced the pictures that appeared on my computer screen. With every click of the mouse, scores of memories flooded my mind.
When I was just three years old, my family had purchased a five-acre plot of woods just outside the city limits of Grand Haven, Michigan, and built a house on it. We lived in that house until I was in high school. When I found it for sale on the Internet, I could not help but peruse the pictures.
I feel sorry for every child that did not have the opportunity to grow up on that land. We cut down trees, dug stumps, built forts, rode bikes, and buried toys all over the property. It was home. I can close my eyes and visualize practically every inch of the orchard, gardens, woods, and house, just as it was in the final quarter of the twentieth century. I loved the place, and I still do.
As I stared at the pictures of the old homestead, mixed emotions overwhelmed me. The house and property had changed. The gardens were overgrown, the orchard was gone, and the house had been remodeled.
The remodeling was a good thing. Someone had patched the holes we had picked in the drywall when we were supposed to be napping. The 70’s green shag carpet no longer covered the bedroom floors. The fireplace had been modernized and what used to be my older sisters’ bedroom had become a dining room. Most shocking was the basement: someone had transformed it into an attractive living space.
For a short time I entertained a captivating idea. Maybe I could buy it the old place. That fleeting thought soon disappeared back to where it should have stayed. It was a crazy idea. What in the world would I do with a house in a different state?
I wonder if the new owners realize what they have. They may never know the rich heritage of that place. Six children were raised there; six children who have since dispersed around the country, taking with them the lessons they learned within its perimeters.
I love that place and I am drawn to it. I suppose I always will be.
I’m sure I’m not alone. Most of us occasionally pine for a temporary reincarnation of our memories.
A guy in the Bible felt the same way. The yearning I experienced that day for my old home place was the same that Nehemiah experienced when he heard about the city of his fathers.
Nehemiah had not grown up in Jerusalem; it had been destroyed long before he was born. Ezra had rebuilt the Temple, but the walls of the city still rested in scattered piles of rubble. This bothered Nehemiah. He was a Jew, and Jews love Jerusalem.
For Nehemiah, however, it was more than nostalgia. He knew why Jerusalem had been destroyed—God’s people had turned from Him. He also knew that God would bless His people if they would repent.
This was an unselfish burden, and one he couldn’t shake. He had a good job as the king’s cupbearer, but he just could not be happy while Jerusalem was in shambles.
Eventually the king allowed Nehemiah to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls. The trials were many; we can read about them in the book that bears his name. In spite of it all, however, he eventually succeeded.
We might wonder what would inspire Nehemiah to leave his cushy job and tackle such an endeavor.
Here is the reason: he had a vision. Jerusalem belonged to God’s people. As if it was necessary, Nehemiah reminded God that “These are Your servants and Your people, whom You have redeemed by Your great power, and by Your strong hand” (Nehemiah 1:10). Nehemiah’s motivation was more than nostalgia—the land of God’s people was in shambles and that looked bad on God. So he took on the impossible task of making it right.
Nehemiah ultimately desired the glory of God. If we can buy into that vision, we will have a purpose for living. Even if we don’t ever get to purchase the house of our nostalgic dreams.