Remember me, my God, for good.
I have a friend getting ready to retire, and he is struggling with that looming time in his life. It was his choice to retire, but at the time are any of us really ready to leave the stage of life where we have the most apparent form of impact on the world? It's not easy for many to turn that page in their personal story, to close one of, perhaps the most significant of, chapters and begin another. Some find it easy, I know. New chapters mean new directions, new adventures. Others, like my friend, aren't quite sure in their resolve to begin a new chapter. For many, it feels like they are deserting what has been their life for so long...so, what could possible follow? There is still so much left to do!
On top of that, if you are leading people like Nehemiah is in today's reading, you might be worried and fretful over their continuing and sustaining the hard work you have invested in them during your tenure. Poor man, he goes away to attend the king in Babylon and during his absence the reforms and restorations he labored so hard to install in the people seem to disintegrate almost immediately upon his departure from Jerusalem. There, right there, is the fulfillment of every anxiety a departing leader has for those s/he has led: that they will depart from his/her guidance and that in that departure, everything goes to pot. Upon his return, Nehemiah finds the house of God itself neglected, the offerings and liturgies ignored and those dedicated to service to the Temple departed for want of support.
Granted, he moves quickly to correct the errors. All the same, that last line of the book confirms for me the anxiety he must have felt...and sensitizes me to the anxiety my friend is expressing...to wonder if a life's work will last, and that it was time well spent on behalf of those the leader serves. It is a powerful prayer, as well as a humble acknowledgement that though we desire it we cannot know or secure a legacy according to our own will. We have to let it go, and surrender what will be to God and the work of our hands to God's mercy...