When I was a kid, I lived on a farm in the middle of nowhere, and I spent a lot of time in the woods surrounding our house. I would spend all day exploring and playing and, most importantly, building forts.
Do little boys build forts anymore? It seems to me most boys spend time building forts in video games that are certainly very impressive, but they aren’t real. They do it in the living room where they can’t get dirty. They never smash their thumbs with hammers or step on a nail, or have to dig out a splinter. For all the good technology has done, I can’t help but feel like it has made us too dependent, too comfortable, but that might be a topic for a different day.
Those things were a big part of my childhood, for better or worse. I was always building. If it wasn’t with wood, it was with dirt, mud, or snow.
The truth is that I was never very good at building forts, I don’t think any of them survived the winter, and most wouldn’t survive anything stronger than a light breeze. One day, however, all of that changed.
I had wanted a treehouse forever, but all attempts had failed miserably. My dad and I were waiting outside the house for my mom and sister to come home from something. We were bored. So my dad turned to me and said, “Son, I think I will help you build your treehouse”
“Really?!” I could not have been more excited!
I helped my dad grab some old 2x4s we had lying around, and then I ran back and forth, grabbing whatever tools he called out for me to grab. At first, it wasn’t much. It was just some planks of wood nailed to the tree next to the house, but we kept working on it. Whenever we had some spare wood and extra time, and the weather was good, we would add to the tree. We had never finished it before we moved, but it was my fortress of solitude. Before we moved away, it was two stories tall, had walls and windows, and even roof access with plans on adding another level.
The greatest part about that treehouse is that it’s still there! Anytime I get a chance to go back and visit the old farm where I grew up, I can see a fort that has stood the test of time, and even though my dad is no longer with me, the treehouse is still hanging on.
What a cool feeling to know that my dad helped me build something that would last. Isn’t that what all parents want? We want to build something with our kids that will last forever.
I love what God’s word says about this in Psalm 127 (ESV): “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.”
God is the one who has given us our kids, our families. I could have never built that treehouse without my dad. He might have said that he “helped” me build it. Still, the truth was that I helped him, and by helping him, I mean I handed him tools that he could have very easily picked up himself. It’s funny how even though it was all of my dad’s work, it was my treehouse to enjoy and steward over.
The same is true with the most important things in our life, and this passage is specifically referring to our families. Unless God builds it, we build in vain.
When you think of your family, what are you building? Is it a legacy that can withstand the winter? Will it live on long after you are gone? We spend so much time running from one activity to another, rising early and going late to rest, but why are we doing it? We do it because we are trying to build our family, but I tell you, unless God builds it, the breeze is sure to knock it over. Let’s not be fooled. The wind of the culture is blowing.
That old treehouse wasn’t the prettiest thing, but it was tough. He made it to last. Your family or life might look polished to someone passing by, but will it still stand after you are gone?
A family is so much more than its members. I’m talking about what your family believes and what it stands for. Generations from now, will your family still stand on God’s word as truth? Will they know that Jesus Christ is the only way? Will God still be the one building?
These are all questions I have been asking myself. I can’t tell you what my family will look like a hundred years from now, but I can say that I have chosen not to build in vain. I don’t care what society says is normal. My family tree might look weird or rough to you, but that’s ok. God is the builder, not me. I’m just the kid seeing how high I can climb.
Let me urge you today, no matter what your family looks like, to begin now to be intentional about why you do whatever you do or don’t do. Don’t be busy because everyone else is busy. Let your labor be intentional. Partner with the Father, who can build something that will last.
Trevor Rickard is an Associate Pastor at New Life Christian Fellowship.