"Some of you will reclaim the ancient ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes." Isaiah 58:12 NLT
Some time ago we sat at the kitchen table feeling this frustration with life. We had one little guy and another one on the way and I remember you saying, “There’s got to be more than this.” It was this discontent with normal life, knowing we were created for more. Maybe you’ve said it or thought it or felt it... this discontent with the normal American pursuit (job advancement, bigger house, nicer car, family vacations, etc.). I think we just feel stuck in it and we look around and we feel normal so we just resign to live in it...until the nagging feeling catches back up to us and we feel frustrated all over again. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a good job, a nice house or car, or exploring the big beautiful world God has made. The problem is when those become our pursuit. They become our why. But pursuing these things we know almost always leads to ruin. Right? Marriages are ruined. Families are ruined. Careers are ruined. Finances are ruined. Reputations are ruined. Sometimes nature and cultures have even been ruined. Those “things” we want to acquire or see or do, they can all be roadside stops along the way but when they become our aim, people (and often the people we care about most) become victims along the wayside of our sideways pursuit.
That’s kinda what happened to the people of Israel. In the Book of Isaiah, we see the prophet spending a lot of effort trying to help Israel see how they’d abused themselves and the cost that was being imposed because of it. Isaiah’s helping them remember. Helping them aspire. Helping them identify. Helping them hook back in to that tether that anchors them to God and the purpose He has for them as individuals, as a community, as a nation, and ultimately as a people belonging to God. Israel had just been given a chance to start over but they were finding themselves doing the same old things with the same old results that weakened them as a society and left them exposed and vulnerable and ultimately led to their capture and the city's destruction.
Their legacy has been left in ruins.
What about you?
What about me?
What in your life, in my life, is in ruins because of self-preservation rather than seeking the welfare of others? I think you've probably seen it too often recently...
Marriages are crumbling. Business have closed. Influencial men have ruined their reputations. Church leaders have lost influence. Your daughter won't return your phone calls. Your brother has stopped responding to your attempts to connect. Your childhood friendship is on the rocks because of an unfiltered comment on Facebook. Maybe you feel like your life or parts of your life are in ruins.
Israel was there. Our society is there. And the ones who pay the highest cost are the poor, the overlooked, the invisible, the silenced, the marginalized...
But this chapter in Isaiah tells us, if we are willing to listen, some of us will have the luxury of a life that lives on after we've returned to the dust. If we will listen, if we will move toward the margins of society, if we will elevate the downcast, we will actually be able to reclaim for our own lives a legacy that can outlast us.
Reclaiming the ruins isn't easy. And it isn't instant. It's an investment but it's one that has the potential to pay dividends for generations to come.
When we observe the population we serve in foster care and adoption, especially the children, and maybe even more especially the teenagers, all of them come into a new family feeling a constant and often subconscious sense of the brain making all these "Am I Safe" evaluations. The walls have been broken down for them over and over and over again. And the more experiences of trauma a child has had, the more challenges a foster or adoptive parent will need to overcome. As a human, that child is instinctively wired to survive. But as a child, they're not emotionally equipped to build those walls in healthy ways. Only a regulated, stable adult can do that. And, as you can imagine, rebuilding walls is not an overnight or single-response solution. There's work to be done. Slow, intentional, self-sacrificing work to be done to rebuild security FOR a child and let their brains do the work of healthy development rather than constantly fighting for survival.
And adults... we are the only ones who can do this for a child... for the children in our cities who desperately need someone to say, "I see you. I've got you. You're safe here."
Is this your legacy? What would it take for you to take the next step? There are a few things you can do right now. One, you can pray. Let God stir your heart. Two, obey. Whatever you feel He might be asking of you, be courageous and follow Jesus in obedience. Three, connect with us. Maybe what He's asking of you is to welcome children into your home and begin the process of rebuilding walls for them. Maybe he's asking you to help these families with the process of rebuilding. Maybe he's asking you to fund the work. There's something for everyone. There's a way every single one of you can reclaim your legacy and be known as a rebuilder of walls.
And while it's fine to dream about your own 2.5 kids and your boat and your house, remember Isaiah was wanting Israel to keep the marginalized in mind in all this dreaming. And this is Jesus' dream for you as well. There are thousands of kids in our country who've forgotten how to dream because for them, the basics have been so elusive that dreaming of a family, of a place that feels safe, of the arms of a mother, of the security of a future, of the laughter around the dinner table, of warm snuggles under blankets, and football in the yard - these dreams aren't even possible for many kids. In fact, where we live there are a few hundred who simply don't have the capacity to dream right now because they're fighting for survival. They need someone who can curate a dream for them. You can bring the dream to them. You can restore home for a child today. You can restore dreams for a child today. This is your legacy. And God is inviting you to step into it. Will you take his offer?
Are you wrestling with the idea of opening your home to a child? Is there a family in your circle who needs your support? Do you have the capacity for financial generosity toward vulnerable people?
Here's what we know... we all want our lives to mean something. When we're dead and gone, we want to be remembered for something.
If we look again at Israel and the audience Isaiah was orginially writing to, in many ways this call to reclaim, rebuild, and restore was a very literal aspiration. Hammer and nails, timber and thatch, front doors and sidewalks and neighbors and all that. But you and I both know that a physical house is not at the core of our aspirations. Certainly we want a safe, pleasing, and functional structure. But home is more than walls and a roof. Home is what happens between the people who live inside it. And if I put myself in the shoes of Isaiah's audience and I hear him ask me to dream about being known as a restorer of homes, I'm remembering the dinners around the table as a kid where I'd watch my father pray, where I'd hear my brother and sister laughing, or my mom trying to stay civilized when someone produced an unexpected sound from the southside, if you know what I mean. I'm recalling building something with my dad or playing ball in the front yard. I'm dreaming about what it'll be like to teach my son to drive and how to ask a girl on a date. Being a restorer of homes is really very little about the structure of a house and so much about the opportunity to strengthen the human connection within the most sacred structure God has ever formed, the family.
It’s taking one step in the direction of God’s people. It’s seeing the messy, broken ruins of someone’s life and moving towards them, when everything in you wants to turn and go the other way.
We could ignore them. We do it every day. Sometimes, it's just easier. But what if instead, we choose to see the needs? To look into the eyes of the person in need? What if we believed God coud actually use us to meet the needs? What would it look like to move just one step in His direction?
We all want our lives to mean something. This is your legacy. And God is inviting you to step into it. Will you take his offer?
Will you move just one step in His direction?