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Strategic Building

Admire the effort but this truck will not drive!

I met with a couple who are sincerely trying to build a strong, healthy life together. They both grew up in what could be described as chaotic homes. By chaotic, I don’t mean that things were always crazy and out of control. I mean that their homes did not run the way God designed for family relationships to work. There was alcoholism in both of their families, people reacting to the alcoholic, and individuals looking for ways to escape the confusion through overachieving, drug use and other distractions. Meanwhile, most of the focus of the family’s discussions revolved around the person who was not well subtly training everyone that the sickest person gets the most attention. They were meeting with me because they sincerely wanted their life together to be different.
I meet a lot of couples like this because their story is pretty common. It is a reflection of Psalm 127:1, “Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain.” People put effort into their important relationships. People sincerely set out to build families, careers and friendship circles that work well. A lot of effort, however, is no substitute for strategic building. I tell men often, “If you car needs oil and you spend a lot of time washing and waxing your vehicle, we will admire the effort but your car won’t be any better off. You still need to put oil in the car.” It is a simple illustration but it is how many people live.
Let me illustrate with this couple. I asked them to identify traits in their lives that developed in response to the chaos they grew up around. Two obvious traits rose to the surface. One of them said, “I want to prove my family wrong. I want to show them that you can be a success even if you grew up in an alcoholic home.” I would be the first to say that the intention behind this statement is awesome. This is coming from the heart of someone who sincerely wants to succeed and begin a healthy legacy in life that will benefit generations to come. It is the kind of motivation I would like to put in a bottle and give to lots of people. I think you can tell, however, that the method is going to be self-defeating. Trying to prove your family wrong eventually falls short because, in our hearts, no one wants the people they love the most to be wrong. I could see the relief when we shifted the conversation. The strategic approach is to ask the question, “What is my God-given purpose? What was I designed for and why did God give me the talents he did?” This takes the focus off the chaotic behavior of others and puts it on the pursuit of goals God created us for. It puts God in charge of building our lives as it releases those who didn’t know how to build their own lives.
The other was a little harder to identify because underachievement was disguised as success. Compared to the family, his career was soaring. Compared to his potential, however, he had barely begun to build his career and influence on others. He was content with the current state of his life because he was so far ahead of most of his relatives. It never occurred to him to ask the question, “Are my goals in line with my ability?” Instead, he had been asking, “Can I pay my bills?” This is a good goal to be sure but if you are capable of running a company paying the bills is too small of an objective. He was working hard but the urgency to progress was missing. He was growing in his career but his ambition was too small for the talent God had given him. If we want the Lord to build our lives, we must evaluate our progress against our potential rather than against other people who are not pursuing their best.
It was a good reminder to me that God has plans for each of us but we must work it out in a world of chaotic decisions and consequences. It is my goal to make God a bigger partner in the process of building my life than anyone else.

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