“The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down…” Proverbs 14:1
I watched as a three year old boy carefully laid each cardboard brick down onto the floor. He held each piece as steady as his pudgy little hands could, and carefully he built up his wall. The bricks were becoming more unstable as the wall grew, but he continued to build the wall higher and higher until it reached way up above his head and he had to stand on tip toes to touch the very top. His eyes sparkled in pride at his creation as another child clumsily teetered towards the wall to admire the masterpiece. The other child reached her arm out and with one light little touch that wall that had been so carefully laid, piece by piece, all came crashing down.
I watched as the little builder’s face turned from a lighthearted smile to uncontrolled rage and he wound up his tiny body to go for the tackle. Quickly, I stepped in between the pair. Keeping my voice calm and gentle, I held the little angry hulk in my arms until finally, the rage dissolved into what it really was: sadness and disappointment. As I comforted the little boy, he asked something absolutely profound: “Why are things so hard to build and so easy to break?”
The question took me aback. I had no answer for the boy.
Why are things that way?
A man works years to build up a company, pouring in his time, sweat, his money and his sanity, only to find out that by the time he’s reached his peak, something newer and trendier has taken his product’s place and he files for bankruptcy.
A family spends years and years working on the farm only to have a disease tear through the entire herd, or prices take a dive, and all is lost.
A teenager spends almost all of his high school years making wise choices and getting good grades, but decides to go to that one party where he is offered a drug which leads to forty years of helpless addiction.
A couple invests twenty-five years into marriage, and one partners falls into infidelity breaking down all those years of trust.
A politician could be honest a hundred times and lie only once, but the trust for him would be forever lost.
Life’s just so fragile isn’t it?
I think of how many bricks I’ve carefully laid; sleepless nights, patient mothering, waking up to feed, to change, to rock, to sing, to love.
The many days of wiping noses and mouths and dirty hands, the endless meals, the mountains of laundry, the “to do” lists that could stretch across the country.
I think of the long days of homeschooling; of planning lessons, carefully teaching, leading hundreds of family devotions. Of the discipling and the comforting, the encouraging words at just the right moment.
Or even the self sacrifice of giving up that new area rug I was looking at so that my daughter can go to horse lessons or the new shoes I wanted so that my sons can play soccer. Not to mention the driving around to these events when all I really want is to just spend one measely hour soaking in the tub.
Yet, I often think of the proverb above and wonder how many times I’ve so carelessly torn down everything in one heated moment, that I’ve spent the past 13 years trying to build. How easy it is to utter hurtful and careless words:
What’s the matter with you guys? You don’t know how to do anything. You just sit around and play all day while I work!
I wish that you would just leave me alone already so I could have a moment of peace!
Why did you do that?!? You have no clue how much you embarrassed me tonight! That was really stupid!
Can you go away? I’m busy here!
It’s hard to write down these things.
It’s really hard.
Knowing that I’ve said them. Knowing that they can’t be taken back. Knowing how much they hurt to hear.
Why are things so hard to build and so easy to break?
“The tongue has the power of life and death and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Proverbs 18:21
Thinking about these things can bring about a sense of hopelessness. If words can’t be taken back, then what’s the point? How can one change the past? Ahh.. but that’s not the point, is it?
The past cannot be changed, my friend, but the future can be! It is never too late!
If every action is like laying another brick, we must also remember to fill in the cracks with grace, for grace is the mortar that holds it all together. None of us are perfect, not one, but how I hate when people say this and then go on as if everything they’ve done is OK!
It’s not OK to hurt people.
It’s not OK to treat people with disrespect and contempt.
But the truth is that you and I will never be perfect. In fact, striving to be perfect brings about ugly fruit of its own. Perfectionism will never bring about a strong house simply because it’s foundation is built on one’s own works rather than the works of Jesus.
Perfectionism is Satan’s counterfeit to the work of God on the cross.
Repentance and trusting in Jesus’s work on the cross is the only way to build up a house that will last.
The Cross alone is our real righteousness. It brings about a change in us that we cannot explain or take credit for. Perfectionism breeds judgementalism and self righteousness. The Cross brings true humility and wisdom.
I’ve been having a hard time writing recently. There’s something going on in my heart that is different from anything I’ve felt in the past. I’ve been recognizing a lot of lies I’ve believed about what it looks like to live righteously and be bold, brave, zealous and honest. I’d compare it to learning how to stay in the middle of a narrow bridge with deep crashing waves on either side.
On one side of the bridge is perfectionism – that need to do everything perfect in order to follow God wholeheartedly. This kind of living is in the flesh, as it sees perfection as something that is humanly attainable. One who gets too close to the edge will find themselves drowning in pride, unhappiness, judgmentalism, condemnation, bitterness and many other things that go hand and hand.
However, equally dangerous is the other side of the bridge which is complacency. That attitude that says I’ll never be perfect so why try. Or that God’s grace is enough for all my sins so it doesn’t matter what I do. One who falls into this side will be overtaken be selfishness, debauchery, gossip, greed, and wickedness.
Sadly too many Christain find themselves in one of the two camps. Either nothing is ok or everything is. I myself have been on both sides, and by God’s grace, he’s yanked me back to the middle through hardships and warnings.
But here’s what I’m learning: I can’t be perfect, but I can apologize. And I can change. Everyday I have a choice; am I going to build up or tear down? That is my honor and duty as a mother and wife. And what a high calling it is having such power and responsibility in my home!
May I learn to never despise that calling.
And a word specifically for women:
I felt God’s encouraging heart towards wives and mothers while reading Proverbs 14:1. What an incredible opportunity that we so often grudgingly bear. We have the power to build our home in such a way that it stands strong or falls to the ground! God has given this power into the hands of women. You have the power within you to build up your family strong for life or tear them down, this is a difficult but hugely rewarding mission! Do not take it lightly, dear friend.