The Old Testament book of Nehemiah describes the story of the rebuilding of the walls and gates of Jerusalem some time around 445 BC. The book of Nehemiah mentions that this project faced opposition from the surrounding peoples, Samaritans, Ammonites, Arabs and Philistines. Chapter 6 describes a failed ploy of the opposition.
I am doing a great work and cannot come down
“Now when it was reported to Sanballat, Tobiah, to Geshem the Arab and to the rest of our enemies that I had rebuilt the wall, and that no breach remained in it, although at that time I had not set up the doors in the gates, then Sanballat and Geshem sent a message to me, saying, ‘Come, let us meet together at Chephirim in the plain of Ono.’ But they were planning to harm me. So I sent messengers to them, saying, ‘I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?’ They sent messages to me four times in this manner, and I answered them in the same way.” (Nehemiah 6:1-4, New American Standard Bible)
The bit that is ringing and singing in my soul is the reply of Nehemiah, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down.” It is what I aspire to say about my life to anyone who wants to engage me in trivial pursuits. I don’t claim to have accomplished anything particularly important in the greater scheme of things. I claim to be a slave of the spirit of the quest for doing what is necessary, what is essential.
Step 33, “I have a mission in my life to fulfill” of Steps to Knowledge tells me I was given a mission before I came to this world, and I will review that mission when I leave. The speech I plan to give at that review is the “I was doing a great work and could not come down” speech. I plan to spend the rest of my life rehearsing that speech.
I am doing a great work and cannot come down. And even when I’m not, I want to be.
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