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The High Energy of Ownership

I am not sure why it is but I always have at least two projects in the works. I often tell myself that I should give them up but it seems to be in my blood. My great-grandfather was an inventor. My dad was an engineer. Both my brother and I seem to have the tinkering/building gene which calls to us consistently. I have noticed, however, that not all projects are the same.
I currently have four projects on my list. I am making remarkable progress on two of them while the other two are stalled. As I read Nehemiah 3 this morning, I realized why. The two that are on the move are ones I have ownership of. I have the authority to make decisions about how it should progress and I have resources to apply that I can manage. On these projects I am highly motivated, mentally focused, and creatively able to adapt my schedule to make progress. The other two projects are currently out of my control. One of them has no budget so there are no funds available to put into it. The other is waiting for another person to make decisions. I just cannot muster up any momentum for these projects beyond putting them on a list for future dates.
What Nehemiah did that helped me realize the difference was to assign work on the wall in such a way that everyone was able to take personal interest. Rebuilding the wall was going to be strenuous and the work would be done under duress. The people were going to be ridiculed, harassed, and threatened. Most notably, Sanballat and Tobiah had already declared their opposition to the project and they were going to recruit others to discourage the Israelites. The people of Jerusalem were not going to sustain their commitment simply because a man from Persia with money told them to. They were going to need a bigger reason so Nehemiah assigned each family a project that was close to their home or closely related to their work. “Eliashib the high priest and his fellow priests went to work and rebuilt the Sheep Gate. They dedicated it and set its doors in place.” (v. 1) “The Fish Gate was rebuilt by the sons of Hassenaah. They laid its beams and put its doors and bolts and bars in place.” (v. 3)  “The Valley Gate was repaired by Hanun and the residents of Zanoah. They rebuilt it and put its doors with their bolts and bars in place.” (v. 13) “The repairs next to him were made by the priests from the surrounding region. Beyond them, Benjamin and Hasshub made repairs in front of their house; and next to them, Azariah son of Maaseiah, the son of Ananiah, made repairs beside his house.” (v. 22-23) And on it goes for the rest of the chapter. Everyone was given a project that was personal to them and they were free to approach the job in the way they believed was best. As a result, there was no need to fire them up or call them to commitment. They were naturally enthusiastic because they had ownership.
As I was writing The 10 Best Decisions a Man Can Make, I came across this story that illustrates what a difference personal investment makes in the way we approach projects:
“An elderly carpenter was ready to retire. He told his employer-contractor of his plans to leave the house-building business and live a more leisurely life with his wife enjoying his extended family. He would miss the paycheck, but he needed to retire. They could get by. The contractor was sorry to see his good Worker go and asked if he could build just one more house as a personal favor.
The carpenter said yes, but in time it was easy to see that his heart was not in his work. He resorted to shoddy workmanship and used inferior materials. It was an unfortunate way to end a dedicated career. When the carpenter finished his work, the employer came to inspect the house. He handed the front-door key to the carpenter. ‘This is your house,’ he said, ‘my gift to you.’ The carpenter was shocked!! What a shame!! If he had only known he was building his own house, he would have done it all so differently.”[i]
May God grant us the privilege of doing work we can invest ourselves in and may He give us the grace to let others have ownership of the tasks we delegate to them.

One Response

  1. This aphorism, should I choose to believe it, accept it, own it and then live it, is fundamental to my living freely, joyfully, and fulfilled in my design and purpose. It wants to deflate my pretensions, to counteract my pride, to overcome my fears and objections, to pull me “back to earth,” by challenging me to change the way I live. I believe that when I – or any man – repeat the aphorism, and believe it, I further a good work, and contribute to build up the structure of my life’s purpose and mission like Nehemiah’s wall, piece by piece, rung by rung, brick by brick, project by project, the next layer and level building upon the foundation of the last, all being held together, and continually tempered and strengthened, by the mortar of the truth of my decisions and actions.

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