Building our house was more work than I’d imagined—a lot more. At 37 I thought, “I can figure it out.” So I began to read and ask questions about the process of building my own home. That was 20 years ago. The house is not 1005 complete, but we’re pretty well there, but I got more out of the process than I had expected—a lot more.
We started out pretty naïve and optimistic, but eventually, I hit roadblocks. Most of the work I managed to learn or figure out on my own, but some things were better left to experts. Drywall was one of those, but I didn’t learn my lesson the easy way on that one and managed to do most of it myself (Unfortunately, you can see what I did and what the pros did.) When it came to block and concrete work, I surrendered before making a mess of it. I’m happy that I did. On some jobs I needed extra hands, but my kids were able to help me on most of those. However, some jobs required extra hands AND experienced skill — at an affordable price. I found all of that in two neighbors John and David.
Our house is made mostly of logs we had milled on our place. So, my “expertise” was in log stacking, which required little more than a level and a three-pound sledgehammer. Framing, on the other hand, intimidated me. So, I hired the framing of my porches out to John and David. And they did an excellent job, but our association grew beyond a business arrangement – we became friends.
David was especially likable. Constantly giving back-handed compliments to everyone around him, jovial, always laughing. Often slacking a little on the job as he entertained us, David kept the workplace fun. He was worth every nickel he ever cost our boss (Easy for me to say, right?). We all enjoyed his lighthearted ways, but David had a tender heart beneath all his exterior that begged to differ.
Big David’s nickname was “Hammer” because, despite his general upbeat attitude, he could be tough. One morning, during break, we were talking about kids and in the middle of our conversation “Big Dave” started talking about his little boy and then…..he wept. A crying Hammer was unexpected. Yet, behind big tears and through gasping sobs he choked out, “I just want to be a better Dad for my little boy.” Immediately, the moment became very real for us and several of those tough old birds turned to brush away their own tear. I think most, if not all men, want to be better… if not the BEST dads. It’s always been that way.
The biblical King David, busy with work (and truth be told, with women) looked back on his life wishing he’d been a better dad to his son Absalom. I think he tried to do a better job with his younger son Solomon. It seems he spent more time with him. You can hear it as Solomon reminisces, “Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding…. I too was a son to my father, still tender, and cherished by my mother. Then he taught me, and he said, ‘Take hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands and you will live.’” Proverbs 4:1-4
Adam must have felt his heart tear when one son killed the other. Abram loved Ishmael, but knew he’d failed to train-away the eldest’s animosity toward the younger Isaac. Saul failed Jonathan. Eli let both his boys down. Surely the list is long of good dads who wished they’d done a better job of raising their sons. What advise would they give us now, if they could? I think we can know; at least some of it.
1- Start when they are young. “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
2- Provide strong boundaries and guidelines. “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame on his mother.” Proverbs 29:15
3- Involve God and His ways in their (and your) everyday life. “Teach the commands diligently to your children, and talk about them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Deuteronomy 6:7
There is more advice for us in Scripture from fathers who lived before us, but these are a good starting place, and where I suggested my friend David invest himself.
It’s been 20 years since John and David built our porches. My sons and I have continued to cobble away at our project. Working together through the many years my sons and I grew close. Now, they love to come home –to house and family.
I was pretty green in the beginning, but I’ve not only learned how to construct a house over the years, but also how to build a home. Looking back, I see where I could have done better with the house and with my children, but I have no regrets for getting and following the advice I did get along the way. In fact, I’m very, very happy I sought expert help…on both fronts.
Any man who wants to avoid regrets and become a better father will benefit from the advice of the Biblical Patriarchs. The results of applying their instruction will be satisfying; like the completion of a house patiently, painfully, prayerfully crafted with your own two hands.