At Work

What Building Our Dream Home Taught Me About Work

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It’s only the first day of summer and I’ve already logged numerous hours on my lawnmower cutting the grass. We’ve had record rainfall in the Washington, D.C. metro area, where we live. The grass seems to start growing as soon as I’ve mowed it. And, with the volume of grass and the terrain, my mower’s been in the shop once already with a broken shaft. But the rain is good for my apple trees, and I’m hopeful it will continue as I try my hand at planting some grapes.

I can’t complain. I am thoroughly enjoying the fulfillment of a dream that became reality three and a half years ago. My wife and I designed and built our home, which sits on several acres of land well outside the noise and traffic of Washington, D.C.

While we were the “general contractors” for the construction, subcontractors did most of the work. That being said, we were at the house site working on various projects nearly every weekend and holiday for two years.

I still remember the relief I felt getting to the point of finally being able to move in. It was Christmas Eve. As we unpacked our boxes, it occurred to me that God had taught us several things as we labored to finish our house. Maybe some of these lessons will be helpful to you, too:

1. The Importance of Vision

Few things are more important than vision. It gives us the ability to foresee something out there—vague as it might appear from a distance—that others don’t see.

Those who are followers of Christ must first have a vision of who God is and the future he holds for them. We also must have a sense of what God has called each of us to do. We must understand that there is a greater calling and purpose in our lives that we need to pursue.

God gave my wife and I a vision for what this house was to be used for and what that would look like. This quote from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings embodies part of that vision:

That house was a perfect house, whether you like food or sleep or story-telling or singing, or just sitting and thinking, or a pleasant mixture of them all. Merely to be there was a cure for weariness, fear and sadness.

2. Perseverance Is a Virtue

Vision by itself is not enough. We must work diligently to make our vision a reality. The Bible calls this perseverance. Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to,

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

William Wilberforce must have had this verse in mind when he said,

Our motto must continue to be perseverance. And ultimately I trust the Almighty will crown our efforts with success.

There were times during the building of our house that we became very discouraged. I often had to remind myself of the old saying, “Ninety percent of success is just showing up.”

3. The Importance of Focus

But there were times that I was overwhelmed when I got to the house site knowing there were so many things to do and at the end of the day when I realized I hadn’t gotten anything done.

My problem was a lack of focus. Proverbs 16:3 teaches us to, “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.”

While it is true that through Christ we can do anything he calls us to do, we cannot do it all at one time. Focus helps us to see the next thing in the plan, so we can do the next thing in the plan.

4. Patience Is Also a Virtue

Because we cannot do everything all at one time, we need to learn to be patient. Patience is trusting God to keep his promises in his perfect timing. Psalm 37:7 says,

Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act.

Yet, in our fast-food culture, this “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22-23) seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle.

During the building of our house, there were so many things outside my control that added not just days, but weeks of delays. There finally came a point where I let go of the things I was powerless to change and trusted God to work them out.

5. Your Work Is Never Done

My wife and I are enjoying our house, but there is still so much to do. Our culture has this idea that we work hard (which is not fun), and then we enjoy the fruits of our labor (which is fun).

This mindset robs us of the joy God intends us to receive from the intrinsic value of work itself. Certainly, we enjoy the fruits of our labor, but we need to learn to enjoy the work just as much.

I hope you find these lessons applicable to your own life and work. If you do, I’d love to hear how—share with us in the comments section below.

Editor’s note: Learn more about the biblical meaning of work in Hugh Whelchel’s How Then Should We Work?

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