by Naseem Khalili
Sophia is the Greek word for Wisdom, and Propel Sophia seeks out the voices of truly wise women and asks them to share worked examples of how they express faith in daily life. Pull up a chair at Sophia’s table, won’t you? There’s plenty of space.
After the strange year we’ve lived through of being locked down during the pandemic and the roller coaster of coming in and out of the thick of it, it’s been hard to fathom a return to normal; if/when that will be. More than likely it will be a “new normal” for many of us and require a process of rebuilding. Rebuilding our routines, relationships, and rhythms.
The book of Haggai is about people needing to rebuild and establish a "new normal” after a time of trial. This minor prophet rarely gets air time on a Sunday morning, but the parallels between our reality and his are uncanny.
A bird’s eye view of this story finds the Israelites coming out of a 70 year exile in Babylon and finally allowed to return home under Persian rule. Upon their return, God speaks to Haggai to tell the Israelites to rebuild the broken temple. Instead of obeying God and leaning into this process, they prioritize rebuilding their homes. It becomes a drawn out tug-of-war between the Israelites and God, as He urges them to re-prioritize and stay obedient.
This last year, our regular rhythms and creature comforts were replaced with new habits like social distancing and working remotely. As we come out from under a year requiring much adaptability and I long to “go back” to a world I recognize, I don’t want to rewind past the lessons God taught me in this time. In Haggai we see God, being so rich in mercy, counseling them as they “go back to normal” to not get distracted and make sure they’re prioritizing the present and the future wisely in light of what they learned in the past.
As Covid-19 (Lord willing) comes to an end, the prophet Haggai is still speaking; giving us wisdom on what to hold onto and remember as we reflect back:
“Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways” (Hag. 1:5)
During a year where so much of our control was stripped away, I began to pray with my hands wide open in surrender: a physical symbol of a spiritual posture. Even though my routine had to change, my priorities did not. The pandemic exposed the dark underbelly of my motives -- my ways of running on empty, living to succeed, and striving for recognition. God tells the Israelites, “you drink but are still thirsty” - reminding them that our human condition is a parched existence apart from Him.
I learned that nothing on this earth can satisfy my soul the way God does. That thirst is quenched through our obedience and abiding in Him as we walk and pursue the path of righteousness we are called to.
“Then Haggai, the Lord’s messenger, gave the people this message from the Lord: “I am with you, says the Lord!” (Hag. 1:13)
In the low moments of the pandemic, the truth that God is with me and for me spurred me on to obey my heavenly Father, without feeling like it was a chore but that it was the engine that would keep me going.
Thanks to Jesus, the good news is that the sacred place that was once the dwelling place of God (the temple) no longer remains confined to a physical temple or building. We are His dwelling place, friend. “...You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:4).
Just as the Israelites were finally obedient to rebuilding the temple, the equivalent for us now is to invest in rebuilding community within the church as a body of believers; investing in one another.
What unique gifts do you have that you can impart to further the unity of the family of God? Quarantine may have isolated us for a time but this life was not meant to do alone. I want to remember my responsibility and purpose as a disciple is to build up the body as we mature to the full and complete standard of Christ.
“The future glory of this Temple will be greater than its past glory. And in this place I will bring peace. I, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, have spoken!” (Hag. 2:9)
As we rebuild, we also have to look back and lament. This last year carried disappointments, chaos, and hardship. And yet, as believers we can cling to the freeing truth that our hope is not in this world. A repeated song lyric for me through this season was, “take the world but give me You.” We don’t need to fear missing out as we anticipate the future glory that awaits us. He is risen -- and death or despair are not the end game.
May our faith not be shaken simply because of the circumstances that this world throws our way. I am encouraged to remember to walk with Jesus daily and to live a cross-shaped life of full dependence on the God who is Able. It might not mean earthly prosperity this side of eternity, but it’s a rich partnership with Jesus that satisfies and sanctifies day in and day out.
Naseem Khalili is a San Francisco Bay Area native who works as the Connections Pastor at Awakening Church. In addition to freelance writing, Naseem loves empowering and discipling women, nerding out on the Enneagram (she's a 2w3) and hosting her 90’s pop culture podcast. You can follow her on Instagram and listen to the Nas-Talgia podcast here.