God and the Trials of Home Building
by Max Davis
They say (whoever “they” are) that one of the most stressful things on a marriage is the trial of building a new home. And believe me, it’s a trial of one nerve-racking ordeal after another. According to the experts, if you and yours can survive the pressure of the building process, then your relationship is probably rock solid. For years my father-in-law worked in the home finance field and can tell story after story of marriages that were brought to the brink during the tribulations of home building, some didn’t make it. Now, I’m sure the ones that didn’t make it already had problems and the stress of building simply put them over the edge. None-the-less, building a new home is not something to jump into without serious thought and prayer. Jesus Himself said, “For which of you, intending to build…does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it…” (Luke 14:28 NKJV). Obviously, Jesus was talking about the financial costs, which one should certainly consider before building. But a couple must also consider the other costs involved, such as stress and pressure on relationships.
After twenty-one years of marriage to my best friend and soul mate, Alanna, we finally felt we got the green light to build our much dreamed about dream home. So, we committed our decision to God, took some deep breaths and then stepped out into the deep. Jumped was more like it! Construction on our new home began. The setting is picturesque on forty acres of family land surrounded by an umbrella of south Louisiana live oaks. Though it’s a new home, the style is old, based on a home that Alanna’s grandfather built. It’s truly a writer’s paradise.
In the beginning when we were in the planning stages, Alanna and I were like kids on Christmas Eve, only instead of toys and sugar plums, visions of cookouts and gatherings danced through our minds. But, just like “they” said it would be, soon the stresses started overtaking the joys. From the moment that first stake was driven in the ground marking the foundation, until the first night we spent in our new house, the building process was indeed a trial. There were critical decisions and choices to be made, budget issues to consider and reconsider, contractor miscommunications, work left undone, work that had to be redone, rain delays, permit delays, electrical delays, water delays, pluming delays. You get the picture. Did you know that the simple task of picking colors for the interior of your home can be stressful? I mean, really stressful. We had an interior specialist help us pick out colors. She was an “expert,” had each room all mapped out with matching tones and shades. On the little cards it all worked. We shelled out bucks for the painters. When they finished, we realized the two bathrooms were nauseating. They weren’t off, just off a little bit, but were horrible. After we looked at them for two weeks, hoping something magical would happen and our eyes would suddenly like what we saw, we had to have the painters come back and re-paint. More bucks. That was just the paint! Don’t get me started on the granite, marble, backsplash, flooring, doorknobs, lighting fixtures, plumbing fixtures, driveway, bricks, windows, the cable television and Internet company. I about lost my sanity dealing with the cable company! I spent a week of phone calls, thirty minutes to an hour each day. It’ll all make you crazy . . . especially when you’re also on a writing deadline for your debut novel! Toward the end, we were so emotionally and physically spent and ready to get in, we were like “yeah whatever” just get it done. Eight months later, weary and exhausted, we simply collapsed into our new house.
Again, while “they” are correct that the trial of building a new home puts stress on a marriage, there is some good news! What Alanna and I both discovered is that if God is in the center of the building process, the experience can actually make your relationship stronger. It did in our case.
From the onset, God let us know on several occasions that He was involved, and throughout we saw His confirming hand. We thought we were just building a house, but really God was using the process to build us. Looking back, God taught us some valuable lessons. Here are a few. Some are spiritual. Some are practical. Maybe they’ll help you.
- God wants to be involved in every phase of our lives, even our home building. As believers, God’s spirit is in us to help us make those difficult choices. At times, both Alanna and I felt terribly inadequate. One of the scriptures we clung to was 2 Corinthians 9:8, “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work” (NKJV).
- God used the house to let us know He was in control and working things out for our good. Time and time again, we made a mistake only to later see the “mistake” as actually better for the design of the house.
- Contractors and laborers are humans with personal hurts and issues. We have a unique opportunity to show the love of Christ to them. Several times we were able to minister comfort to our workers.
- Keep perspective. While the stress is real, get real! There are people in the world dying everyday on the streets with no home. Christians are being persecuted for their faith. One day I was complaining about how difficult my day was. I had a list of “to-dos” and not enough time. Driving down the road, ranting, I saw this homeless guy in a wheelchair with no legs. The Holy Spirit slapped me back to reality. It’s only a house. A few weeks before we moved in, I met with a friend that was in the last stages of a nasty battle with cancer. We didn’t talk about houses but Jesus and people.
- This home is a gift, and it’s to be a place of prayer, refuge and peace. Without the people you love filling it, it’s just another house, not a home.
- Keep good records! Keep all your receipts!
- My wife is truly my best friend. We’re partners, each with strengths and weaknesses. I’ve gained a new appreciation for her and what she has to offer. She compensates for my weaknesses and I for hers. We complement one another and, in the end, have a much stronger outcome and product.
- Listen more. There’s a big difference between talking and having a conversation about something and it actually happening (or ending up) as you visualized.
- Dads are a great resource. They know stuff! If yours is still alive, cherish him.
- There’s wisdom and confusion in a multitude of counselors. In the end, you have to know what you really want.
- People really do love us. So many friends and relatives stepped up to the plate to help and support Alanna and me. It was amazing!
- A tape measure is your friend. Keep one handy. Inches make a big difference. The little things in life add up.
- Alanna and I learned to give each other a lot of grace. Actually, that is the only way we made it through.
- Building a house is one thing, building a home is all about partnership.
As I write this article, we’ve been in our new house for a week. Things have settled down a bit and it’s starting to feel like home. While the marble countertops and wood floors are beautiful and I’ve already taken three baths in my soaking tub, the real joy is seeing the smile on my sweetheart’s face, snuggling up next to her, and the two of us sharing a cup of coffee as we gaze out the windows, or when relatives and friends drop by, especially “Sam” our new grandbaby! That’s what life is all about.
I guess building a home is a lot like having a baby. You dream about it. The seed begins to grow and develop. You watch its progress in awe. There are growing pains and then labor pains. Finally, there’s a big push at the end. When you see your beautiful home, you forget the pain and look forward to this new life.
Max Davis is the author of over thirty books. His debut novel Dead Dog Like Me will release in June. Max and his wife Alanna live in Greenwell Springs, Louisiana on forty beautiful acres with a couple peacocks and a spoiled poodle named Teddy.
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