Not sure if you caught the news story about the Broadway musical that pairs deaf actors with hearing actors, but basically, as the deaf actors sign, the hearing actors sing. It’s quite moving. But something I heard during the interview of two of its cast members caught my attention. Sitting next to her deaf counterpart, the singing actor said, “What we’re trying to create, the effect we’re looking for, is that people will watch her and hear me.”
We’ll come back to that.
You may be familiar with the book of Nehemiah, and if you are, then you know that Nehemiah – a government worker in the employ of the king – becomes a building contractor called in to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. And while much of the story is a listing of all the many people that worked side-by-side on the project, what Nehemiah did immediately before and immediately after is our focus today.
Here’s the scene: Nehemiah was distraught by what he’d learned of Jerusalem’s appalling conditions and its wall burned with fire. When the king asked him why he looked so sad, Nehemiah told him of his homeland. The king then asked, “So what do you want?” And notice Nehemiah’s default reaction: “Praying under my breath to the God of Heaven, I said, “If it pleases the king, send me to Judah, so that I can rebuild it.” (ch.2, v. 2-5) Eventually, as Nehemiah says, “The generous hand of God was with me, and the king granted my requests.” (v.8)
So to recap:
Nehemiah prays under his breath,
the king gives,
God receives the glory,
the wall is rebuilt.
Speaking of the wall being rebuilt, the faithful people of Israel rebuilt the wall in just 52 days, which was miraculous because the wall had been laying in ruin for 140 years. And when it was all said and done, Nehemiah proclaims, “The enemies lost their confidence, because they realized God was behind the work.” (ch. 6, v. 16)
Far too many elements to consider in one entry, but what motivates me about Nehemiah – long before he picked up a hammer – was his heart to please God. And then when asked by the king, Nehemiah’s first impulse was what? (As he takes his steps toward the king to reply, can’t you just see him whispering to God? I love that visual.)
What’s more, he prayed to God under his breath and then was bold and courageous about his reply. Through it all and after his work was done, Nehemiah gave all the credit to God. He wanted nothing more than for anyone who saw the wall – and anyone who heard the news it – to know that God alone was responsible.
Well, getting back to our Broadway story, I like to think the reporter conducting the interview reacted exactly the way Nehemiah would have wanted. She said simply, “I watched this play and I didn’t think of two actors, I thought of one.”
Oh, for people to think of God when they watch us work; to see us but hear Him. And before we pursue our work, our health, our bodies, our rebuilding, our progress – before it pleases the king – may today be the whisper under our breath.
– Jimmy Peña
For Discussion: Why did Nehemiah’s enemies lose their confidence? What role, if any, did Nehemiah play in it? In our industry, how can we learn from his example? Who do you know that is like Nehemiah? Are you like him? How can we avoid being that way?