Posted by: kathryngraves | October 28, 2015

Starting Over 3: Be Like Nehemiah (Or Cinderella!)

I love to read fiction. The last few books I blew through were fictionalized accounts of the Israelites’ return to Jerusalem out of Babylonian captivity. Ezra and Nehemiah were inspired and enabled by God to lead the people to first rebuild the temple and then to rebuild the walls around the city.


I realized a timeless truth as I read. Rebuilding is harder than building the first time. King David spent his reign consolidating the kingdom and establishing peace. He commissioned the walls to be built by wall-building experts. Solomon’s reign was characterized by peace and wealth. The temple was built by specialized craftsmen with no worries about their safety.

When Ezra returned to a broken-down, defenseless city, he only had one thing on his mind. Rebuild the temple so worship and the sacrifices could resume. It was tough. There weren’t many who knew what to do and not many materials to work with. By sheer determination they erected the structure, but it was plain and simple. Not the magnificent building Solomon built. It functioned, but failed to reflect the splendor and glory of God.


Nehemiah returned some years after Ezra with a mandate to rebuild the walls. All that was left were broken, burned chunks of stone. Huge holes gaped where the gates once stood. Enemies lurked all around. Sanballat, Tobiah, and Gershom led the opposition. Tobiah was even married to a daughter of a priest! Nehemiah didn’t know who he could trust. The honest answer was, not many.


When we start over with anything, whether it’s eating right, exercising, getting back into church, reading our Bible daily, or anything that requires discipline, the enemies lurk. We, like Nehemiah, don’t always know who or what they are. One key to successful rebuilding is to identify the enemies.

Cinderella had enemies. They were her ugly step-sisters. We know from the fairy tale that they looked ugly. We also know they had ugly hearts because they lied to Cinderella. They told her she was ugly, worthless, and their servant. For years, Cinderella believed their lies. It took intervention by her fairy god-mother to make Cinderella see and believe the truth. She was a princess with a princess heart.

Lies are your enemy. Whether you can relate better to Ezra and Nehemiah or Cinderella, the point is to root out the lies you believe. The people in Jerusalem got used to seeing broken walls and believed it might always be that way. Cinderella believed her circumstances might never change as she sat by the ashes. The people became intimidated by their enemies. Cinderella was intimidated by the ugly step-sisters.

What do you believe that may not be true? That you are just somebody who can never lose weight? That you don’t have time to add one more thing to your schedule? That you aren’t a morning person, so you can’t have a quiet time? That you can’t afford to change your grocery shopping habits?

Persist. I don’t know what your life is like. But I have faced my own enemies and their lies. I had habits that needed to be broken. My body was pretty much toast after my cancer treatments ended. I even had to re-learn how to do a few things. I felt foolish, but I persisted. I am not a morning person and that does get in the way of setting new patterns of behavior.

But I decided it was worth the effort. Just like the people who fought with a weapon in one hand and built the wall with the other, just like the workmen who felt inadequate for the task of rebuilding the temple. Just like Cinderella who left her old life behind. I made the choice.

Do it again. The thing is, I have to make the choice again, sometimes every morning! It’s never a done deal. I fall off the wagon. I sleep in. But I keep on starting over. Nehemiah and Ezra and Cinderella encourage me. I think most of life is this way. It’s like “Standing Man” in the movie Bridge of Spies. He just kept getting up again after being knocked down.

The beauty of starting over is that it is biblical. God is the God of second chances. And third. When Adam and Eve brought sin into the garden, they were banned from there, but God gave them a new start outside the garden. It was much more difficult, but it was a fresh start instead of condemnation. When the problem of sin became too much again, God pushed the re-set button by sending the flood and saving one family for a do-over. When that didn’t work out so well, God chose one man, Abraham, and his one family through whom to send ultimate redemption. Jesus Christ, the descendent of Abraham, gave us all our biggest second chance when He took our place on the cross.

It is through the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ in me, that I can start over. Thank you, Jesus! What a beautiful thing.



  1. I just finished reading your post Kathy and it made me see that even a person that is not fighting a horrible disease like you did, sometimes has to “start over”. That’s how I feel now, moving out of my comfort zone to a new start in Texas! What changes that have been put in our paths and so many “start over” things to do. Re-reading your post makes me think about all the new things in our lives today. Thank you and God for helping me see this.
    Jeanie Alexander

    • Jeanie, I’m so glad you benefited from this post. My cancer is long past now, but I do find it so challenging to stay with my new habits! Reading about Ezra and Nehemiah again was a breath of fresh air for me. We think of you often…

      Kathryn Graves Chasing Beautiful “He has made everything beautiful…” Ecc. 3:11


  2. I have read all 3 of the books you mentioned and they are great. I love reading what ever you write about. You have a wonderful talent.
    Myrna Burns

    • Thank you, Myrna! That is so encouraging.

  3. I really love your insights! Sometimes after a fail…it’s hard to start over. I’ve done it with some things…with others not so
    Maybe it’s how I view the fail trail that keeps me from starting again.
    Reading this I did realize a thought I get a lot..I believe a lot of us believe. Its that you aren’t good enough lie. It encompases. And carrys into so many things. Thanks Kathy!

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