Keep the promises you make to your children.
I think it’s going to be a Tylenol day. My legs are jelly. My back needs replacing. My hands can hardly type this. My left shoulder is calling me names I won’t repeat.
Yesterday I built a tree house for the kids. I built it in one day. Please don’t be too impressed. My twelve-year-old son, True, helped. My eight-year-old son, Ever, sure thought he was helping.
The tree house was built in only one day, but it took six years to plan. For six years I promised my kids we were going to build a tree house “someday.” I bought and read four tree house-building books over those six years. The books had impressive titles like Backyards for Kids and Treehouses and Playhouses You Can Build. Yet none of those books built the tree house for me.
I was afraid‒paralyzed by fear, with hope but no action. I’m not a construction guy, and I really didn’t know where to start, so I didn’t start.
When the Lord speaks to me, I don’t get a burning bush. I get a lot of small grass fires. No commands to remove my shoes; just little reminders of what I already know I should be doing . . . like when I straightened a bookshelf and uncovered those four tree house books patiently waiting for me . . . like when my wife Belinda reminded me my boys and I are both getting older. Soon tree houses won’t interest the boys, and soon I won’t be able to build much more . . . like when I listened to my friend lead a church seminar on parenting. He reported our college and youth pastors stating teenagers’ greatest disappointments came from parents’ promising and failing to deliver. Parents really meant to teach their child to drive, or to fish, or to play chess. But they got busy with the thorns and thistles of life, and it never happened. Ouch.
After confessing to the Lord my fear, sloth, and ignorance, I focused on one book and one simple design. Like a pro I marked up the blueprint, created the materials list, and drove True to Lowe’s in a truck full of hope.
We stopped first in the “fasteners” section, or what I used to call screws, bolts, and nails. We were overwhelmed by the many sizes and types of fasteners, and I guess we didn’t hide it very well, because one of the Lowe’s guys, Dan, asked if he could help.
I proudly showed Dan my thoroughly researched materials list and how I was using inexpensive landscape timbers to construct the tree house, saving money rather than buying that expensive, pressure-treated lumber.
“You don’t want to use landscape timbers,” Dan remarked.
I guess my look said, “Oh, yes I do!” because Dan went on to explain how the tree house wouldn’t collapse under my sons and their many friends if I used pressure-treated lumber. Then Dan used his iPhone to show a video of the enormous tree castle he built for his sons using pressure-treated lumber. Dan won.
Saturday morning arrived, and I started early on what became a 105F-degree day. I stared at the plans. I stared at the pressure-treated lumber. I stared at the tree. The three didn’t agree in their dimensions or angles. The tree hadn’t signed off on my plans, so I would have to adapt. True and I prayed for the Lord’s wisdom as we recalled He knew a thing or two about carpentry. Then we agreed to construct only the support beams that Saturday.
True and I measured, sawed, fitted, drilled, and struggled. We talked about absolutely everything as we built. I recalled how my dad never built a tree house with me. True thanked me a dozen times for building with him.
About 1:30 p.m. we discovered we needed more materials, so we drove back to Lowe’s. I stared at joist fasteners for a long time, once again confessing my construction ignorance to the Lord. He rewarded my honesty by telling me, “Buy the flooring for the tree house.”
Now, I’ve never heard an audible voice from the Lord, but I do know when He is talking to me.
“Um, Lord, True and I agreed we’d only build the support beams today.” And He replied, “Buy the flooring for the tree house.” The Lord won.
Eight hours later, True is drilling deck screws into freshly cut floorboards while I hold the flashlight. We ran out of deck screws. One more trip to Lowe’s.
Apparently I got smarter as the day progressed, because I asked my college-educated daughter, Halley, to go to Lowe’s for me. “Begged” is probably the more accurate term, and she agreed, taking my wife along with her.
When the ladies visited Lowe’s, Charles helped them. Charles asked, “What do you need these deck screws for?”
“My husband is building a tree house with our boys,” Belinda responded.
Charles replied, “When I was a kid, I always wanted my dad to build a tree house with me. He promised he would, but he never did. Your husband is doing a good thing.”
“And we preach to you the good news of the promise made to the fathers, that God has fulfilled this promise to our children in that He raised up Jesus.” (Acts 12:32-33a)
Dads, you already know what I’m going to ask. Is there any unfulfilled promise you’ve made to your kids? Maybe it was an event, or a trip, or a hobby. I asked my kids to remind me of what I’ve forgotten, and I was reminded of a train ride and a trip to the beach. I hope Charles builds a tree house with his kids.
The new tree house is now decorated with old floor mats, furnished with old lawn chairs, and occupied by young, happy boys. And, to my wife’s delight, True is eagerly doing his schoolwork in the tree house. Thank you, Lord, for your patient reminders. Thank you, Lord, for the guys at Lowe’s. Thank you, Lord, for setting the example by keeping Your promises.
If you have a moment, please send an email to ImperfectFather@Gmail.com. I’d love to read stories of how you kept your promises.