Unless the Lord builds the house

We received notification that the house around the corner from us had been condemned and was going to be demolished. But when the heavy equipment arrived to tear it down, I couldn't help but feel sad. Whatever circumstances led to that end couldn't have been happy ones. The couple who lived there had always been neighborly and nice. They had suffered fire damage to a roof more than a couple of years ago; I'm not sure it was ever repaired.

You can't build a house in a day, but you can tear it down in one. Of course, it didn't take only a day to reach that point. People have difficulties, sometimes overwhelming ones. They grow old. They lose jobs. They become ill or otherwise unable to maintain what they worked so hard to obtain. I imagine our neighbors are relieved that the struggle they had here is over. I hope they are happy where they landed and have been able to move on with a measure of peace.

I have always loved the opening of Psalm 127: "Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city the watchman stays awake in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors; for he gives to his beloved even in his sleep." I wish I could say that I have always lived by these words. If I had, I'm pretty sure that some of the biggest headaches and heartaches I've experienced in life wouldn't have happened.

But what does it really mean to let the Lord build the house? I think it comes down to surrendering our plans to God's so completely that we stop making them. As someone who wakes up with the words, "What's the plan?" on my lips, I know how hard that can be. Of course if God isn't on board, if what you are working for isn't encompassed by God's will, you're on your own. And on your own isn't a great place to be.

Still, I've always believed that life isn't going to give you what you want, that no one owes you anything, and that if you want something, it's up to you to hustle for it. Tenancity. Patience. But mostly, hustle means that you work for as long as it takes until whatever it is you're working for works out. I've done pretty well with the hustle philosophy, but the psalmist sings about an even deeper -- and better -- way to live.

"He gives to his beloved even in his sleep." In other words, the blessings of God don't depend on you. Unless God is building what you are building, nothing you do will amount to anything. But if God is building and you are along for the ride? Nothing depends on anything but your complete trust in him. He will do it all. He will bring it to completion.

Heaven is the house God is building for each one of us. The way there often involves a good bit of demolition. But what is torn down usually isn't fit for habitation. It's the stuff we can't maintain, the repairs we couldn't or didn't make, the broken down fixer-upper that's beyond our ability to fix or re-model or renovate. Most of us hang onto those places with the affection anyone has for "home." The Ascension reminds us that our home really isn't here at all -- that God has better blueprints for our lives than anything we can draw up.

- Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a Catholic convert, wife, and mother of eight. Inspired by the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales, she is an author, speaker, and musician, and serves as a senior editor at Ave Maria Press. Find Jaymie on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @YouFeedThem.