I’m in my backyard with my two sons, who are 3 and 5 years old, and I decide that I’m going to be Creative Mom. I gather pine needles, sticks, rocks, pinecones, and a few tree leaves that have already turned bright yellow. The boys and I kneel on the paving stones in our backyard. We pick a circular paver, and I begin to make a face with the found objects. Rocks for eyes. Pinecone hair. Twig nose. Those yellow leaves? A handsome bowtie. The boys help a little, but they mostly watch as I assemble the face.
When we’re done, my oldest (big smile on his face) enthusiastically asks, “Can we mess it up?”
“Sure,” I say, a little deflated.
It took maybe two minutes to make our little portrait, but in two seconds my boys’ feet have scattered the needles, rocks, and cones to the four corners of the yard.
It’s so much easier to destroy than to build.
Small children love to topple towers made of blocks. They like to smash Play-Doh creations. Oh, look, an empty plastic cup. Let’s crunch it up and shred it into tiny plastic fragments! It’s so satisfying and simple.
It’s also immature. That’s why babies are naturals when it comes to destruction.
Building not so much. Keeping something in good condition … not so much. Fixing something? Not so much.
Building requires some fine motor control. It takes concentration and patience. You might have to endure a failure or two before the tower grows tall or the Play-Doh molds into the right shape. It takes self-restraint to not make confetti out of a plastic cup even though you reeeeeeeally want to.
As they get older, kids learn the value of building. They realize there is more lasting benefit and satisfaction in creating something versus the temporary pleasure of tearing something down. (Just ask any 10-year-old boy to see his Legos. Chances are he isn’t going to show you a jumble of disassembled blocks; he’ll show you his magnificent creations on a display shelf.)
What does this have to do with anything?
Every day, we are all faced with opportunities to either build or destroy.
- Am I going to build up other people around me (help, encourage, support)? Or am I going to destroy them (insult, ignore, scorn)? (Eph. 4:29)
- Am I going to build up my spiritual life by reading, praying, and attending church? Or am I going to let my faith grow dilapidated? (2 John 1:6)
- Am I going to build up my character by making choices that honor God? Or am I going to wreck myself by choosing sin? (Philip. 4:8)
- Am I going to build up gratitude in my heart by thanking God for everything? Or, am I going to demolish my blessings under the weight of complaints and comparisons? (Heb. 13:5)
Building, creating, supporting, working — it’s always harder.
Destroying, wasting, tearing down — it’s always easier.
As I grow in faith, I come to realize that, even though building is difficult, it’s worth it. I’m thankful for the people in my life who chose to build on my behalf, on behalf of God’s kingdom. I want to do the same for my little boys so that when they’re men, they’re builders, too.
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.