This new normal was anything but normal to me. The prior Federal agency I worked for the past 14 years wouldn’t have dreamed of such organized disruption. The thought of a civilian employee vacating their position for a temporary assignment, in the name of professional or personal growth, would have been considered ludicrous. But there I was, surrounded by 120-day ‘detailers’ maneuvering the steep learning curve of their short-term jobs. I empathized as those left behind scrambled to absorb their peers’ abandoned workload. Piles of unfinished business were draped with the frustration and worry of those who had to figure out a way to absorb their new priorities. The whole thing appeared selfish, disloyal, and unbalanced to me. It made no sense, and I wanted no part of it. Until now.

The term ‘detail’ in the  Federal professional realm refers to the act of a civilian employee leaving their current position to pursue temporary work elsewhere within the agency. Overall, details are viewed as career opportunities. Additionally, details are often utilized to meet imminent hiring needs. To explain, when a position becomes vacant, hiring managers can temporarily fill it with a ‘detailer’ until the job announcement and hiring process get underway. If done properly, and with the help of a Human Resources expert, a cold vacant seat can have a warm bottom sitting in it within a few pay periods.

I do not think “robbing Peter to pay Paul” is a viable solution to organizational staffing woes, and if I am being honest, I will always consider details to be disruptive when overly applied. But I must admit, my perspective on details has recently shifted upon a deep-rooted conversation with God to which I was asked the following questions: What if He ordered the move? What if God said rise-up and go? Would I, despite my disdain for such work-related reassignments, be like Nehemiah and obey the call to a temporary transfer to fulfill God’s plan?

I admire Nehemiah, a high-ranking, Jewish cupbearer to King Artaxerxes, who proved to be one of the most admired leaders in Biblical times. His story is one of radical obedience to a calling to rise-up, rebuild, and reestablish his homeland, a city that had been demolished and ruined. With bold faith and trust in God’s favor, Nehemiah petitioned the King to release him from his current duties and send him to Judah so he could lead the charge of rebuilding the city.

We know from Nehemiah 2:6 when the King inquired about Nehemiah’s leave of absence and anticipated return, that the assignment was, in fact, temporary. Nehemiah never intended to remain absent forever; he understood that he was to return to his permanent position once the assignment was complete. The King not only permitted him to vacate his job, but he gave Nehemiah an escort and letters addressed to governors of provinces through which he would pass. The letters gave Nehemiah the authority to request all necessary supplies to complete the task. God’s favor was apparent in Nehemiah’s assignment.

With the help of an assembled team of workers, Nehemiah completed the task of rebuilding the city in just over a month. During my quiet time with God – that morning when He asked me if I would rise-up and go if called to a new assignment – it struck me that Nehemiah went on a 52-day detail. He petitioned his employer for permission to vacate his permanent position as cupbearer; he placed his career on hold to build a foundation for God’s purpose, and once his assignment was complete, he returned to the King.

What is God calling you to do? Do you feel prompted to leave your current position to care for an elderly parent? Perhaps God is asking you to leave a career to raise and homeschool your children for a season. Maybe you are prompted to step away from the daily grind to focus on your physical and mental health. I knew a coworker years ago who left his permanent position for 12 months to train for the Olympics. Your time away from your permanent circumstance may not involve training for a gold medal, but what if God asked you to write a book, start a business, or launch the ministry He planted in your heart? Would you obey and surrender? Would you, like Nehemiah, rise-up and build? Would I?

The story of Nehemiah is a great reminder that even temporary assignments can be a part of God’s larger plan. Let’s consider the following regarding the parallel between Nehemiah’s story and modern-day details:

Purpose-driven: Nehemiah’s mission to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem was a clear, God-given purpose.

Temporary nature: Nehemiah’s rebuilding project was always intended to be temporary, lasting 52 days. When God calls us away from our current situation into another, it can be easier to digest knowing it is temporary.

Leaving comfort zones: Nehemiah had to leave his comfortable position as a cupbearer to the King to undertake the challenging task.

Reliance on God: Nehemiah recognized that the success of his mission depended on God’s provision and protection.

Broader Impact: Nehemiah’s efforts to rebuild the city had a transformative impact on the entire community.

Through Nehemiah’s story, I have learned that not all those willing to embrace disruptive assignments and life transitions are acting out of selfishness. Many operate from a powerful motivation of wanting to be faithful to a greater purpose and calling – one well worth the sacrifice of stability and routine.

What is God calling you to do? Is he asking you to go on a detail? Will you rise-up and build? Will I?

Scripture Reading

Nehemiah 2:4-5

The king said to me [Nehemiah], “What is it you want?” Then I prayed to the God of heaven, and I answered the king, “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my ancestors are buried so that I can rebuild it.”

Nehemiah 2:6

The king, beside whom the queen was sitting, asked me, How long will your journey take, and when will you return? So it pleased [him] to send me, and I set him a time.

Nehemiah 2:18

Then I told them of the hand of my God which was upon me for good and also the words that the king had spoken to me. And they said, Let us rise-up and build! So they strengthened their hands for the good work.

Nehemiah 6:15

So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, in fifty-two days.


Lord, we are grateful for the example of Nehemiah. Like him, we long to be attentive to Your voice, ready to answer Your call, even when it draws us away from our normal routines and responsibilities. Give us the wisdom to discern Your will, and the strength to follow where you lead. May we, like Nehemiah, be willing to leave the comfort of the familiar to take up the task you have ordained for us. And when our work is done, guide us safely back to our permanent callings, that we may continue to serve you with grateful hearts. This we pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.