9 Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and teacher of the Law, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is holy to the Lord your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. 10 Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
Finding Joy in the Midst of Conviction
by Adrienne Cain, MLS, CA
My name is Adrienne Cain, and I serve as the Assistant Director for the Institute for Oral History—a small research department within Baylor Libraries that has been on our campus since 1970. Throughout our 50-plus years here at Baylor, we have amassed a collection of over 7,000 oral histories and have been known as one of the leading institutions for oral history worldwide.
For those who may not be familiar with the concept or process of oral history, it involves the research, recording, transcribing, and preservation of a person’s life story, or testimony. It is an intimate, guided conversation in which a person shares their experience in their words as told from their perspective. These stories are then preserved and made accessible in order to serve as a witness of the past to future generations.
As an oral historian, librarian, and certified archivist, I am used to hearing stories and preserving materials that capture a moment in time, a person’s life story, and/or the history of a community. In my 10-year career in oral history, I have interviewed many people of different backgrounds about their life journeys and experiences. Throughout their remembering and retelling of different events and moments in their lives, people are often reminded of the emotions associated with those memories. Some memories are good, some are bad. Some evoke happiness while others end in tears (joy or sadness). But what remains constant is the fact that as they go on this journey, the hand of God has been on their lives and continues to appear in their lives. And the same is in our lives as well. Although we may get saddened or frustrated with ourselves when we may have not made the best decisions or acted with the best character, we cannot allow those moments and emotions to cause us to forget the goodness of God, how far He has brought us, and that He remains with us.
When we look at Nehemiah 8:9-10, the people heard the words of the Law and were reminded of their past sins—moments where they may have acted in poor character or made decisions that were unpleasing in God’s sight. Upon hearing these words, they wept of guilt and conviction. Likewise, there may be moments in our own lives where we reflect on how we acted, reacted, mistreated, and or disobeyed the Word of God and are overwhelmed with regret and grief. We end up in a cycle of “should’ve/would’ve/could’ve” and let anxiety and shame take root. However, Ezra, Nehemiah, and the Levites did not want or allow the people to stay stuck in conviction. They acknowledged their sadness, but then instructed the people not to mourn or be overtaken with sadness. In fact, they encouraged the people that this was cause for celebration and that the joy of the Lord was their strength—and it is also ours.
Know that as believers and followers of Christ, we are forgiven. We should not dwell on the sins of our past but rejoice in the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ is our Savior. We should acknowledge our sins, seek forgiveness, and create a course of corrective action. Correction is not easy—it cannot involve emotional and even physical pain—and correction is not always instant. But take delight in knowing that we have the opportunity to course correct. We have the joy of knowing that even though we sin and fall short of God’s glory, as long as there is breath in our lungs and a heartbeat in our chest, God is doing a great work in us!
Lastly, Nehemiah gave the people instructions on how to celebrate this holy day—celebrate with food and drink and “share with those who had nothing prepared”. I can’t help but think that “those who had nothing prepared” were the people who may not have been in attendance and were not there to experience what had happened. As we approach a season in which we celebrate in sharing food and gifts, think about how we can share our spiritual gifts, talents, and knowledge with others. By sharing our stories and experiences of what we have gone through or what we have come out of, we can help others who are on similar paths and journeys. This can be done through mentorship, coaching a youth group, a seminar for entrepreneurs in our shared field, etc. Through our stories—our testimonies—we are able to inspire hope and joy in others.
Learn More About Our Guest Writer
Adrienne Cain, MLS, CA
Adrienne Cain, MLS, CA, has worked with University Libraries at Baylor University since 2016. Adrienne also serves as the Secretary/Treasurer of the Texas Oral History Association (TOHA). Adrienne came to Baylor from the Houston Public Library, where she served as the Oral History and Media Librarian for the Houston Metropolitan Research Center (HMRC). In that capacity, she facilitated access to a collection of over 1,500 oral histories through organizing, arranging, describing, transcribing, digitizing, and developing policies and procedures. Prior to joining HMRC, she worked as the Oral History Librarian for the African-American Library at the Gregory School, where she reorganized their collection and significantly increased awareness of the collection along with the amount and quality of the recordings. Due to these efforts, TOHA recognized the Gregory School in 2014 with its Mary Faye Barnes Award for Excellence in Community Oral History.
Adrienne was introduced to the world of oral history while serving as an intern in NASA’s Johnson Space Center History Office. She joined TOHA in 2013 and began immediately making contributions. She also holds membership in the Society of Southwest Archivists, the Texas Library Association, and Archivists of the Houston Area.