As we discussed in the second chapter, a house that’s built willy-nilly will take forever to build and will probably not stand once it’s up. You will have nothing but trouble with such a house. Small issues will crop up almost immediately—doors that stick, floors that aren’t level, plug-ins you forgot, corners that aren’t square making other things like cabinets and wallpaper not fit right.
A house built like this is not just a mess. It’s frustrating and depressing and ultimately unsafe. Nothing works. Nothing fits. And you sure don’t want others to come and see it. There are leaks that turn into mold problems and wiring problems that could burn the house down.
You don’t want to live in a physical house like this, and you sure don’t want to live in an emotional/mental/spiritual house like this. A life built on doing whatever is most expedient at the moment will soon encounter all kinds of problems, and worst of all, just moving won’t be an option because all those decisions you made will follow you wherever you try to go.
I think many people actually do try to move away from their problems. They don’t like their family, so they move. They have issues in their marriage, so they divorce. They can’t stand their co-workers, so they switch jobs and then switch again and again.
Past bad decisions haunt them, not just in their minds but in their lives, and those decisions haunt those around them as well.
I remember reading the lament of one young woman whose mother was a serial bad-decision maker. The young woman wanted to know how you are supposed to turn on love and affection and then turn it off. Why? Because her mother would get with one guy, and the daughter was supposed to open her arms to this guy’s family with no qualifications or even time to get to know them. She was expected to attend and participate in family reunions, Christmas and birthday parties, and other small and large events.
At these events, she was to treat her new “family” as family—with no history built at all. Then when the mother fell out of love with this particular boyfriend, the girl was expected to hate the “family” she had just been expected to love, again with no question. Moving on became not just her mother’s issue, it became hers as well.
Serial bad-decision making is rampant in our society. Singles make bad decisions about dating, leaving heartache and problems in their wake. Then they choose someone to marry who has no track record of commitment or even honesty and love. They live selfishly, spending and acting as if there were no consequences to anything. When it all falls apart, they blame everyone, throw a big fit, and move on in a huff. Positive coping mechanisms such as forgiveness and working issues out are nonexistent or dissolve in battles and abuse.
Living in shaky houses is no fun.
Shaky houses are bad enough, but sometimes we fall into the trap of building lemon houses. Lemon houses are those that look really good on the outside but have tons of hidden problems. A lemon emotional house is often built on the lies of positive thinking and success that many people are chasing.
Now thinking positive is a step up from thinking negative, but the problem with this approach is it relies on self rather than on God. People living in lemon houses do whatever it takes to project to the world that they have everything under control. They carry Blackberries and iPhones; they have a blue tooth in each ear and a latte in hand. They wear the best clothes, live in a house they cannot afford, and work, work, work until they literally drop out from sheer exhaustion.
Lemon houses are dangerous because other people will encourage you in your pursuit of this kind of a life. In fact, others will envy the life you are projecting. Granted, they don’t know about the credit card bills and the impossible-to-pay mortgage. They don’t have a clue that the spouses are at each others’ throats about who can spend what or that the children are holding on by an emotional thread.
Living in a lemon house is draining because you can never be honest about who you really are. You are caught in a perpetual lie that you can never come clean about without the whole thing coming down around you.
Building a House that Stands
The good news is even if you live in a shaky house or a lemon house, you don’t have to stay there. True, on your own you can’t fix it. In fact, it may well take knocking the whole thing down and starting over. Only God can fix or rebuild these kinds of houses. They are not do-it-yourselfers.
Also, it’s important not to fall into the trap of thinking you will fix the house first and then go to God. That’s a colossal waste of time and ultimately an excuse to get you out of going to God in the first place. Just let go, admit the rotten decisions that led you here, and let God show you how to start over.
Building a house that stands requires consistent, right, wise decisions.
Re-read that sentence: Building a house that stands requires consistent, right, wise decisions.
Here’s the problem. We, on our own, cannot make consistent, right, wise decisions. On our own, we are sporadic at best, selfish and short-sighted at worst. We see the right decision, but oh, it looks so very, very hard to do that. And wise? Well…
The good news is that God in the Gifts has already given you HIS wisdom. Remember? You’ve been putting pieces of knowledge together into understandings and understandings together to get chunks of wisdom.
Now it’s time to put that wisdom to work—building or rebuilding your house.
Head and heart decisions
I occasionally watch home make-over shows. One of the shows has a host that will take a room that is incredibly cluttered and disorganized and organize it.
The first step he requires the owners to do is taking literally everything out of the room and putting it on the front lawn. Now some of these rooms could get federal disaster funding, so by the time they get everything out on the lawn, it looks like a house just threw up. Then he does something interesting.
He makes three areas: Keep, Trash, and Give Away. In the Keep area the homeowner can only put a certain number of things. They can’t keep everything. Then the decision-making begins.
The interesting thing is watching what stays and what goes and why. These decisions involve the head—well, that’s worth X amount or that’s brand new or we use that every day. Others, however, are heart decisions—my mom gave me that before she passed away, that hung in my parents’ house my whole life, my grandmother quilted that.
The life decisions you are asked to make every day are much like these decisions—they don’t just require your head, they require your heart as well.
Back to that Lemon House
Let’s take the man living in the lemon house. He’s made some bad decisions because he didn’t understand the balance of head and heart. He saw the luxury car and his heart took over. Granted, his head was saying the monthly payment was going to be too much, but he really wanted it. So he bought it.
The house was his wife’s heart purchase. He knew it would really stretch them, but she had her heart set on it. So they bought it.
Now he’s working and working and working to pay for everything they’ve purchased. He wants to be seen as a success, remember? One facet of doing that is keeping up with his neighbors. So not only does he have to have the house and the one luxury car, but he can’t have that ten year old car sitting in the driveway, so he trades it in—leasing because he can’t buy—a new luxury car for his wife.
Of course, they can’t be seen at down-scale restaurants or in hand-me-down clothes. Jewelry is a must as are the right shoes and the right accessories. The problem is he now spends all his time at the office with no time to spend with his family. His head says he has to put in the extra hours so he doesn’t let his family down; his heart says his kids are growing up so fast and he’s never home.
He realizes he’s living a lemon, but he has no idea how to get out of this life he has set up.
God is Building You a House
Bad decisions have a way of becoming a cumulative problem. Bad head decisions are followed by bad heart decisions, which are followed by more bad head decisions until the person is trapped with no way out.
This was not God’s idea for your life. God made you in His image. And God’s being is not stressed out, running and running and running trying to keep up or because everything is going wrong. God is at peace. Perpetual peace. Everlasting peace. And He desires that you live in that image as well.
I heard someone say once that worrying is simply meditating more on your problems than you meditate on God and His plan for you.
The truth is God is building you a house. At first it may not seem like the perfect house for you, but once you’re living there, you will wonder why you ever chose to live anywhere else.
This house is built on trust in God’s right decisions for your life. A word of warning: God’s decisions for your life will NOT look like the world’s plan. Two decisions in my life come to mind. The first was being a stay-at-home mom. I was a teacher, and my plan was to be a teacher even after I became a mom. But that wasn’t God’s plan. Now had I stuck with my agenda, I would never have started writing, and you wouldn’t be reading this right now.
The reason you are is because I chose to live in the house God built for me rather than the lemon house I had built for myself. (That’s not to say that all working moms are wrong. I’m saying it was wrong for me.) But here’s the thing, even after I started living in God’s house for me, I would occasionally sneak back into that lemon house.
I would start setting up my writing life based on what the world says was the way to do it. Book signings. Marketing. Hours and hours spent trying to sell, sell, sell, so I could be seen as a success. Even planning events that would take me away from home. The truth was, my heart hurt at every decision made with the world’s picture of success in mind, but I wasn’t listening to my heart. I was listening only to my head. Until God yanked me up by the collar and said, “What are you doing?”
When that happened, I had to get really honest. Head honest and heart honest. Whatever I was doing, it was making me miserable. So God and I had a conversation about what was really important, not for the world but for me. He said, “To get what you want, you will have to sacrifice something.”
Still clinging to my lemon house, I was very sad because I realized that to get the dream of being a big-time author, I would have to give up time with my children. I would have to be gone from home, missing them, living out of a suitcase in some hotel, calling them at night to tell them I loved them. My heart broke at the very thought.
Then God said gently, “Or to have the dream of being a great mom, you will have to give up the dream of being the big time author.” Instantly I was at peace. There wasn’t even a question in me which decision made sense for me—to my head and to my heart. It was not the decision the world would have advised. That’s okay.
I’m made in God’s image. Not the world’s.
The fourth Gift of the Holy Spirit is Right Counsel—making smart, good, right, wise decisions consistently. These decisions help God build your house not undermine what He’s trying to build. They are decisions that help build the lives of others as well.
By now you’ve probably figured this out, but in case this isn’t obvious: the Holy Spirit gives you these gifts because you don’t have them in and of yourself. You can’t make consistent, right, wise decisions for your life on your own strength or in your own wisdom, but God can.
Right counsel involves making decisions that make sense to your head and to your heart. Both are important, both should get a say. You should listen to both.
Of course sometimes your heart decision doesn’t mesh with your head decision. If that’s the case, think in God terms. What is the best long-term decision? What decision sets you at peace with yourself and God?
Some of these decisions will not be easy because others are trapped in shaky or lemon houses of their own, and they really don’t want to leave. So they will make fun of you for the right decisions you make. They will scorn you and may even leave altogether, but making a bad decision to please someone else is still making a bad decision.
A Third Way
One thing I have learned with God is there is usually a third option, a God option. When you are really agonizing over a decision generally one of two things is a problem.
1) You know the right decision but it’s just too hard. Maybe someone will not be happy if you make the decision you know is right, or maybe making the right decision will lead to a complete overhaul you’re not sure you want to make.
2) You don’t know the right decision and all possibilities seem wrong.
We’ll deal with the second case first.
I have found that when all possibilities seem wrong, they probably are, and that means God has a way you haven’t thought of yet. This situation requires immense prayer and a lot of trust to just make the decision that comes to you.
Ask God to show you the third way, the way you are not seeing. Ask Him to make it clear what you should do and trust that He will give you the right answer in His time.
(Don’t fret. We’ll get to the answer to that first one in the next chapter.)
1) What is the hardest decision you have ever made? Why was it so difficult? Who did you consult? Was God one of the parties you asked? Was what He wanted what you did? Why or why not?
2) Are your current activities and commitments in line with your long-term priorities? Are your long-term priorities in line with the house God wants to build for you?
3) What decision did you make with your head or your heart that you ignored the other and wished later that you hadn’t?
4) Have you ever made a wrong easy decision instead of the right hard decision? (Hint: To find these, look at the sins in your life.)
Copyright Staci Stallings, 2010