Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.
At times it is easy to convince myself that the work I do, and the ministry I have, is all a part of a deep desire to see God's kingdom grow and God's house be built. And I think, to some degree, that is always true. But at other times, I also become aware of much darker feelings and motives that lurk beneath the surface of my heart and soul. At times it becomes painfully obvious to me that what I am really trying to build is not His Kingdom and His house, but my own: my own kingdom, my own reputation, my own resume, my own sense of value and worth. What I am really trying to do is build a house that will impress and delight all who pass by; leaving them saying, "Wow, that is the most impressive house I have ever seen."
The way I know this is true involves the feelings and voices that live way down in the darkest parts of my being; ones that bubble to the surface uncontrollably from time to time. They show me that something is amiss deep within. Sometimes it bubbles up in the form or criticalness or frustration when I hear a story of someone that is being commended or praised for something they have done really well. Sometimes it bubbles to the surface in feeling threatened or defensive when I see someone far more gifted than I exercising their gifts. It is an incredibly ugly thing to admit, particularly in public. I mean, aren't we supposed to celebrate those things in others? If I was truly about building God's house, I would be glad and grateful rather than insecure and fearful whenever his kingdom and his purposes are being advanced. It's these kinds of things that make me aware that I am actually trying to build my own house rather than His; or, at the very least, trying to build both at the same time. And, as the psalm clearly states, anytime I do that, it is only in vain. I am eating the bread of anxious toil; trying desperately to feed on something that is not food at all, at least not food that is lasting and satisfying. And when I somehow convince myself otherwise--that I must be building some extraordinarily incredible house or accumulating some impressive resume--I will never find true rest (or be given sleep). I will be far too busy toiling vainly.
Only when I come to recognize and to know myself as His Beloved will I ever find the rest my soul most deeply longs for. Only then will I be free enough from my fear and insecurity to be about God's house and God's Kingdom, rather than trying somehow to use Him in order to build my own.