Mexico is continuing its recovery efforts after it was left reeling from an 8.2 magnitude earthquake, which is tagged the strongest in 100 years. As buildings toppled, many were trapped under rubble leaving rescue workers dependent upon cries for help to confirm there was life among the debris.
Reports of this devastation in Mexico are reminders of the work of Nehemiah, the leader in scripture who assumed the job of rebuilding the temple and walls of Jerusalem. It was not an easy feat primarily because many of the materials to be used for reconstruction were not new materials but were stones taken from the rubble. The job seemed hopeless as mockers questioned: “Can they revive the stones from the dusty rubble even the burned ones?”
1 Peter 2:5 says: “We are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple.” Thus, the reference in Nehemiah to stones from the dusty rubble prophetically points to believers who were once as beautiful, productive and supportive as the temple and walls of Jerusalem. However, traumatic experiences caused their lives to crumble leaving them buried under rubble. They survived the collapse of their health, their finances or their marriage, but still find themselves engulfed under the rubble of disappointment and despair. Or, perhaps there was an emotional crash due to the illness or sudden death of a spouse, family member, or close friend, leaving them under the rubble of grief and heartache. There are a number of life experiences that cause us to be trapped — crying out from the rubble of pain and loss.
Some say through faith you can circumvent every tragedy and dodge every curve ball the enemy throws your way. However, many of us live the reality that sometimes the wrong thing hits at just the right time and rocks your world, causing all vestiges of security to collapse leaving your hopes and dreams under a heaped pile of rubble.
The first good news is, like in Mexico’s devastating earthquake, there are first responders and rescuers moving about listening for cries for help. The ultimate first responder is God himself who is willing to hear our cry and pull us up out of any situation. Psalm 12:5 says: “Because of the devastation of the afflicted, because of the groaning of the needy, now I will arise,” says the Lord; “I will set him in the safety for which he longs.” I personally have been pulled out from the rubble a few times, and have heard many accounts from others who share similar experiences.
There are also the Nehemiahs — the first responders and rescuers God strategically positions in our lives to pull us out from the debris. These are caring, compassionate people who continue to value us even when we are in our worst state. They may be people who were once trapped themselves so they willingly help others because they never forget the response to their own cries. If someone listened for your cry, you should listen for others.
Finally, as God continues building his spiritual temple, he is not looking for fresh new materials. He is looking for stones like you and me — stones that were once dusty, chipped, and trapped under the rubble of life’s circumstances, but can become beautiful, valuable, and useful once again.
The Rev. Gail T. Smith is pastor of the Universal Light Christian Center in Macon.