52 Days: Rebuilding from Rubble

by Amanda Shaheen, The Sparrow’s NestRubble

On a recent trip to Israel, I stood in awe at a section of the original wall that Nehemiah had built around Jerusalem. Out of all the things to get excited about in the Holy Land, I was excited about a giant pile of rocks. But, it was more than just rocks. It was a symbol of a recovery from breakdown and ruin, a symbol of change and renewal, and a promise of hope and a glimpse of restored order. These very themes have resonated with me as I have journeyed as a house parent in a maternity home.

Moms come through our doors broken, discouraged, hopeless, and without a purpose and direction. For them, their walls have been ruined, burned and scorched by their past. Their walls lay in rubble around them. They build artificial and unstable walls, protecting themselves from having to trust or building on a foundation of hurt, but those too soon crumble. In those moments, as staff of a maternity home, we pick them up out of the rubble and beckon them to rebuild. Together, we begin the task of rebuilding the many layers: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. We serve as their Nehemiah, guiding them in the arduous task of rebuilding and changing themselves towards the vision God has for their future.

We teach them that change is movement.

Change and rebuilding is one simple stone at a time. Rebuilding doesn't happen by others doing it for you. We desire their walls to be strong and firm with a good foundation, but we can't build it for them. Our moms must come to their reality that movement must be made. Nehemiah realized this. In fact, Scriptures say that when Nehemiah heard the news of the destruction of Jerusalem that he sat down and wept. Our moms often come to that point where they realized the destructive path they have walked down for so long only leads to more pain. We weep along side them, and we activate the moment in them towards change. For Nehemiah, he simply cried out to God and asked what he could do. We stand beside our moms as they lay each stone, guiding and directing to each new stone that begins to rebuild their foundational walls.

We teach them that change comes with adversity.

After all, Nehemiah built a wall having to listen to scoffers and critics. They stood by taunting him over his efforts. They jeered at him with their worst insults: “Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish, and burned ones at that?!? [...] If a fox goes up on it, he will break down their stone wall!” (Nehemiah 4:2-3) The world around our mothers tells them they can't do this, and they will never overcome the odds. Family, friends, birth fathers, boyfriends, and a broken world tells them that their burned rubble will never amount to anything. Maternity homes foster in them a different message--a message of purpose and hope.

We teach them that change enables them to help change others.

It is easy to focus on the monumental task of rebuilding in the present, that we can forget to teach our moms how to activate change for their children and those around them. My favorite Bible character, Queen Esther, followed Nehemiah. A contemporary of Nehemiah, she became a symbol of hope for the still oppressed children of Israel. The odds were stacked against her as she was summoned to the courts of Xerses. It would have been easy for her to fade into the background amongst a harem of women. Instead, she let her faith live outwardly as she found herself in difficult circumstances. Like Nehemiah, she was able listen to God’s prompting and in turn, liberate her people. Our moms have that same opportunity to change the future for their family, to not become stagnant but to constantly cultivate movement towards change. Sharing this vision can help activate urgency.

We teach them that change activates a sense of urgency.

One of the most astonishing facts about Nehemiah is that he finished the walls in just 52 days. If you've ever been to Jerusalem, and seen the size and capacity of the stones you realize the monumental task that was at hand. When a mother walks into our care, there is a sense of urgency: a baby is coming and I can only stay so long. Neither mom nor staff can get caught up in the deception that change will come later, or that we will start when it's convenient. Maybe 52 days is all we have with a mom. Maybe it is more time or maybe it is less time. It simply matters the urgency we operate with during this time.

So what can 52 days do for change and rebuilding in the lives of our mothers? I hope I answer that question with the wisdom and strength of Nehemiah. I pray I weep for the rubble that I learn of, and cry out to God for direction. I pray I share the vision and cultivate change as I lead like a modern Nehemiah.

In short, may our work invite mothers to:

  • Be open to change and begin movement forward.
  • Learn to face adversity.
  • Look to the urgent now as well as to the future of their children.