My parents bought a skeleton house with nothing but the frame and the siding intact. At first, we had no running water, no electricity, no heating, and no cooling. Dad filled plastic barrels in the back of his truck with water from a pumping station and hauled them home for us to top off our gallon jugs. We used to fill a big bowl with warm water heated up on the camp stove for our baths (I was five and my brother was four when we first moved in). After my dad finally got two of the bedrooms sheetrocked and painted and had all the electrical wiring set up, we designated one of them as a bedroom for all of us, and the other as a living/kitchen/dining room. Shortly after that, he installed the plumbing, had a well drilled, and we were able to enjoy running water for our only bathroom. It was like an adventure.
Twenty years later, we finally had a comfortable, finished home. My dad’s persistent work on the weekends (his only time off from his job) eventually paid off. I’m sure my parents sometimes wondered if it would have been better to have simply bought a house already made. However, I feel that the experience helped bond us and taught us many important lessons that I don’t think could have been easily acquired any other way.
One of those lessons, for me, was the ability to appreciate all that goes in to building a home: sweat, hard labor, frustration when things don’t line up, stress when there’s a lack of money to get things done as fast as one would like, making do with things as they are, living together in small quarters, going without all the fancy stuff, keeping what you do have clean–even if it’s only a bare plywood floor. And that lesson has been a significant factor in the way I view children: the way I look at it, the same elements are involved.
In Ruth chapter four, we read the almost fairy-tale-like story of how Boaz ends up taking Ruth as his wife. As soon as the matter is decided, we are told this:
11 And all the people who were at the gate, and the elders, said, “We are witnesses. The Lord make the woman who is coming to your house like Rachel and Leah, the two who built the house of Israel; and may you prosper in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem. 12 May your house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah, because of the offspring which the Lord will give you from this young woman.”13 So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife; and when he went in to her, the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son.
I’ve referenced this verse before; but, there’s something more that I think is worth looking at: the fact that Rachel and Leah are considered to have built the house of Israel (and it is hoped that Ruth will do likewise). However, it brings up the question: what does it mean to “build the house”? What is being referred to in this passage? Obviously, it is not any sort of physical structure, but is the conception, birthing, and raising of children, which is mentioned at the end of the text shown above, and which is said to be given by the Lord.
Here’s another passage which talks about building the house, from Psalm 127:
1 Unless the Lord builds the house,
They labor in vain who build it;
Unless the Lord guards the city,
The watchman stays awake in vain.
It is vain for you to rise up early,
To sit up late,
To eat the bread of sorrows;
For so He gives His beloved sleep.
Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior,
So are the children of one’s youth.
Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them;
They shall not be ashamed,
But shall speak with their enemies in the gate.
Here, again, the idea is presented that having children is closely associated with building a house. Furthermore, we are told that unless the Lord builds the house, we labor in vain. What could that mean? I think it partly means that if we try to “build” our family on non-biblical values, it will not stand:
24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.
26 “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”
If we build our lives and families on knowing and obeying Jesus’ sayings (the Bible), then we will have a solidly-built house, founded on the Rock. With so much destruction and chaos and pain in so many of today’s homes, this fact rings true more than ever. We need to have Jesus and we need to do what He says. But, though we certainly do have here a general truth we can apply to our lives on the whole, I believe that the other part of the concept of building one’s house specifically applies to having children and raising them. This understanding comes from the passages from Ruth and Psalms I referenced above (along with other Bible verses).
Having children takes work. Pregnancy is a tough and nasty business, as much as it is beautiful and fulfilling. Babies, once they are born, cry and wet their diapers and spit up over everything. Toddlers whine and throw tantrums and spill coffee grounds all over the floor. Older children roll their eyes and “forget” to do their chores. There is absolutely a lot of sweat and blood involved; so much so, that many parents wonder if it is even worth it past the first two or three kids. That’s sort of like saying, “My house is only half built, but I guess I’ll leave it that way because it’s taking so much work and I’m tired of it.” What if God’s plan for our family is to have a completely finished product–and we accept the skeleton house because we’re afraid of the toil? Who is building the house? Is it us, or is it God?
Are we building our house in vain through our manipulation of conception through birth control? Certainly whatever children we do accept from the Lord have a purpose and a destiny for their lives. However, my point is this: what if God wanted to give us more–to “finish the building”–and we got in His way because we thought we knew better?
Rachel and Leah built the house of Israel. Wow! They didn’t actually build a house, since they lived in tents. They weren’t career women, they probably didn’t have much education, and I have no idea what their IQ was, but they are credited with building Israel. My heart longs for the Christian women of today to understand that it isn’t a college education and a lucrative or prestigious career that builds a nation: it’s having children and raising them for the Lord.
And since there are some women out there who, even though they have left their wombs in the Lord’s capable hands, are still longing for children, please let me add that God’s plan is always perfect. The key is to leave the planning to Him and let Him build the house how He wants to do it, whether that means He gives us one child, ten children, or no children. As long as we let Him do it, we know that it will be done right.
When my dad was constructing our house, it wasn’t easy to live all cramped into the same bedroom. It wasn’t easy to have a living room, kitchen, and dining room all smooshed into one. While our house was still in the process of being built, all we could do was envision what it might look like when it was done; but, it was that envisioning that got us through those long, drawn-out years. And then, when the house was finally finished, we were able to enjoy it with a much greater sense of satisfaction than if we had just bought a pre-made house and moved in. No, this was our house, and it was filled with the treasure of shared memories; some good, some not so good, but all treasures nonetheless.
Ladies, being mothers is not much different. It takes a lot of work and often feels like a constant, never-ending process of fixing one thing after the other. It can be discouraging and frustrating. It can be painful and heart rending. We can sometimes feel like giving up. But are we really going to be happy with a half-built house? Or, are we going to let the Lord build the house, and wait to see what awesome things He has planned for us?!