In the face of this, ask yourself a few questions. What do you want? What do you desire to be different or want to create? These sound like pretty simple questions and maybe you have answers. But now add the word “REALLY” in front of “want,” “desire” and “create.”
- What do you REALLY want?
- What do REALLY desire to be different?
- What do you REALLY want to create?
It is surprising how challenging it is to answer these questions. As we consider the questions, we get caught up in the “how” of doing it and therefore never commit in heart and mind to the “what.”
What do you want?
- Start or grow your business?
- Have a highly engaged team?
- Experience a marriage you are excited and proud about?
- Create an impact and legacy?
- Expand the Kingdom of God?
The 3,000 year old story of Nehemiah gives us a picture of mission and leadership to help us take the next step when you’re called to something bigger than you…
Nehemiah was the cup bearer to the King of Persia in 450 BC. His job was to taste the wine before it was passed to the king. Since predecessors to the current king had lost their lives through poisoning, his role was uncomfortably vital to the on-going existence of the king.
Nehemiah lived under the constant shadow of death. He had been born in Persia but his ancestral homeland was Jerusalem. It had been overtaken 141 years prior and although he had never lived there, he looked to the ancient capital as his ultimate home, the place where his heart resided and the place that gave meaning to his life. So when Nehemiah learned that his homeland was in distress and that the walls and gates of the city were in shambles, he was heartbroken. The city was under constant siege and thousands of residents had to flee.
Nehemiah felt called to do something about it. However, for fear of his life and uncertainty about the king’s response, he stayed quiet praying, reflecting and I’m sure rehearsing what he would say to the king. Then the day finally arrived when the king noticed that something wasn’t right with one of his most important servants. His anguish must have been written all over his face. Maybe he thought, “Nehemiah doesn’t seem to be on his game and I have a lot of wine to drink today”. So he asked him what was wrong. Nehemiah mustered the courage. His time had come. He told him the situation and then the king shockingly asked the question, “What is it you want?” He said, “Send me to the city in Judah where my ancestors are buried so that I can rebuild it.” Nehemiah was so committed to the vision that he was courageous in that moment to ask for help. Miraculously, the king gave him letters of introduction to the surrounding leaders, an armed escort and the means to get the job done.
When leaders stake a claim and devote themselves to what they want or what might be, they invite those around them to share the vision and travel on a journey towards its realization.
We also don’t want to overlook the important principle of this process of slowing down as a means to get clarity, focus and speed. While we may chalk up Nehemiah’s initial delay in saying something to cowardice, the cowardice was a gift in that it created a space for him to slow down. The scripture at Nehemiah 1: 4 states about Nehemiah, “for some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.” So he stopped and created space for the mission to build! By the time the moment with his boss came, he was ready to say exactly what he wanted and boy did things happen quickly. You already know the king said “yes” and gave him the resources he needed but it’s also no small footnote to say that ultimately, it only took Nehemiah and his team 52 days to rebuild Jerusalem’s wall, despite opposition. For a wall that was 2 ½ miles long, an average height of 39 feet and 8 feet thick and 34 watchtowers, that’s fast.
Leaders make choices all the time. This is your chance to decide to settle for what is or dream about what might be.
As tempting as it is to get sucked into the “how,” slow down and simply focus on choosing “what.”
You are designed for a purpose. Saying what you want isn’t selfish; it’s aligning to your true design and leading yourself and others from that place.
Next week, I’ll share the next step in the process of answering “now what?” to a mission God has given you. That step is to create a powerful context for the thing you’re up to.