“I also assigned two large choirs to give thanks. The two choirs began at the Southern part of the wall (at the Dung gate.), one went to the left, one went to the right, they surrounded the city of Jerusalem in praise as they marched toward the temple.” (Nehemiah 12:31)
I find it interesting that Nehemiah, who is sent on assignment to repair the broken down walls of Jerusalem, assigns first, two choirs of praise beginning at the “Dung Gate”. The Dung gate was where the city’s trash and animal waste was dumped. Figuratively, it was a place of worthlessness and disgust. A place of refuse.
At various times in our lives and for a variety of reasons we too can find ourselves at the Dung gate ; the deep doo-doo of life. The last thing we even think of doing or even feel like doing is praise or finding something positive to think about. We may be feeling such a sense of unworthiness internally or with our situation that it is next to difficult to find any positive in the midst of it all. It is here where we may be given into complaining or sheer defeat and despair.
My foster mom gave me a gem of a story, when I was growing up and going through “stuff”, that has stuck with me all my life. I have used this story time and again to encourage myself and others. Whether it is true or made up I do not know nor do I care. It’s purpose far outweighs all that.
It’s a story of an experiment with two boys… One who was placed in a room full of candy and the other in a room full of horse manure and left in their said rooms for a day. At the end of the day they found the boy in the room full of candy crying and very unhappy. Very little of the candy had been eaten. The boy was asked, “Why are you so sad? This is a kid’s dream to have a room full of candy!” In which the boy replied, “I’m sad because I know if I eat all this candy I will get sick and have a horrible stomach ache.” ….. Fair enough.
So then they checked on the boy in the room full of horse manure, and he was singing and slinging horse manure all over the place just having himself a big ol’ party. The boy was asked,” How can you be so happy? It smells horrible in this room and this is just disgusting.” In which the boy replied, “Because I know with this much manure, there has got to be a pony somewhere!”
I watched the movie “War Room” with my family the other night. An elderly lady “Miss Clara” was trying to help a younger woman save her crumbling marriage and decaying family. She was listening to the younger lady rant on and on. The younger woman was obviously hurting and angry. After some time Miss Clara cuts in and says, “ How much of the one hour we have today are we going to spend whining about your husband or learning what God can do about it?” Earlier on in the movie the younger lady states, “I don’t have time to pray that much every day. In which Miss Clara replies, “But you apparently have time to fight losing battles with your husband?”
Being in the dung of life is hard and it is here where we tend to whine and complain or get too focused on the dung instead of praying and thanking God for what He can do about it. Prayer and praise gets us focused on the solution and it is an act of Faith in God that He can clean up our dung mess, because in all honesty, even with our best efforts we can’t…. at least not as great and complete as God can.
Why praise God? Especially when that is not our natural inclination when the walls of our Jerusalem have crumbled?Because praise helps to drown out the real enemy. Our enemy is not in people or situations. Our enemy is in that little mealy-mouthed “Gollum” who whispers “dungy” thoughts into our spirits. Who delights in seeing us sinking down so low that we have no strength or joy left. (Ephesians 6:12)
Faith is believing in the unseen and not the seen. (2 Corinthians 5:7, Hebrews 11:1). Praise is our way of showing God that we are trusting in Him for the solutions and the answers and in His perfect timing. Even in those times where we see absolutely no light at the end of the tunnel. Praise enables us to see beyond the muck, releasing spiritual endorphins for that second wind we have so desperately been gasping for. When we praise we are showing God that we believe that His fixing of our problem is a “done deal”.
Praise doesn’t just have to mean in just the spiritual sense either. God’s ways are all encompassing. I believe that finding something good, anything good, in situations or people can also be an act of Faith. Praise towards others or even in encouraging ourselves has also been known to inspire us all to raise the bar in our lives and do better as well, which can also directly affect our situation. In our family, praise can often come in the form of finding the humor in even the darkest of situations.
I also find it interesting that Nehemiah has the choirs of praise surround the entire broken down city of Jerusalem. Praise is saturated with God’s Presence (Psalm 22:3) Praise can surround and protect the walls of our broken down spirits releasing the healing power of God to wash over us with His warm, healing salve.
Does this mean that we are to just ignore or lump the “dung” times in our lives? To just swallow our feelings and act like Spiritual Super Susies or Spiritual Pollyannas, ignoring reality and acting like it is just “well with my soul”? Absolutely not! God created those feelings and understands completely when we are hurting and feeling defeated in the “dung”. He just wants to encourage us to not stay there. It is healthy for us to have our “moments”. It is not healthy for us to just stay in those moments, however, bringing on more and more tummy aches rather than finding our pony. “ There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven. ….. a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4). Life is so, so short! He wants us to move from the “Dung gate” and let Him surround our brokenness so the walls of our lives can be restored and repaired. Like the boy who knew there had to be a pony in all that manure somewhere, we should trust God for the pony in the manure of our lives. Victory begins at the Dung gate. It’s “A Dung deal”!
I love Jesus. I think my two daughters can change the world. I think you can too.
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