It seems that Christians in pioneering days used the analogy of a Character House to teach people about the need for godly character.
A pioneering child would be called on to help their father and others construct their houses, barns, etc. There would be many laborious tasks, all done by hand, in order to fell the trees, prepare the timber, prepare the site, and construct the building.
Children would learn about the need for a solid structure and the need to ensure gaps were well filled to hold out cold and vermin. They would learn to discern the quality and strength of the materials they were using.
It seems they were also instructed that, just like building a house for the family to live in, each child was also building a Character House in which they would live for the rest of their lives.
If they were hasty or lazy, careless or sloppy they would end up building something that would crumble over time, or crack under the pressure of storms. They would end up with gaps that let in unwanted things or that made the dwelling uncomfortable to live in.
Their Character House needed to be built from the best materials, like the fear of God, truthfulness, faith in God, right choices, saying “no” to selfish impulses (deferred gratification / self-control), respecting the consequences of their actions, and so on.
The more godly character each child developed, such as selflessness, patience, faithfulness and self-restraint, the better their internal character would be and the stronger they would be as a person going through life.
If a child made a foolish, selfish or angry choice, or if they gave in to an inappropriate impulse, such as greed or vengeance, they were effectively pulling planks of wood from their Character House and leaving gaping holes for bad things to enter their lives.
By this simple analogy pioneer children could be called out when they made wrong choices, asking them, “Do you want to make holes in your Character House?”
A missionary friend told me how he dealt in a similar fashion with his children. When they would act selfishly he would point out to them that their wrong behaviour was because of evil in their heart. He pointed out that he loved them and wanted to be sure they did not take that evil into their future life. He would give them godly discipline, but he was also intent on the ‘reproof’ aspect that goes with punishment, as prescribed by King Solomon.
“The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself brings his mother to shame.” Proverbs 29:15
The Bible teaches us that godly correction drives foolishness from a child.
“Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction drives it far from him.” Proverbs 22:15
Before I take this thought further let me address the likely cultural reaction to ‘rod’. Most western cultures object to the idea of a parent hitting a child. Yet God instructs that proper use of a stick in discipline drives away foolishness and gives wisdom.
The Bible also points out that a rod used in anger will never have a positive effect.
“the rod used in anger will fail” Proverbs 22:8
Godly discipline is not about beating a child. It is about using punishment wisely and with love for the child, to reinforce godly instruction, so the child knows the parent loves them and is given inner strength to resist temptations to foolishness.
However, my point here is about the word ‘reproof’ not the rod, so please don’t let that word distract you from what I want to bring to your attention.
My missionary friend would give godly ‘reproof’, instruction that illuminated the understanding of the child and guided them to wise choices in the fear of God.
Each time a child would make an unwise choice he would point out to the child that their choice revealed some evil within them and he would encourage the child to call out to God to deliver them from that inner evil.
One infant son, when asked if he wanted Jesus to help him remove the evil within gave a very definite “No”. The father gave the child the appropriate discipline for whatever incident it was and left the matter. The next time the child acted inappropriately and was called to account the father once again asked if the child wanted Jesus to help him remove the evil within. Again the child was resolute in his “No”.
This pattern repeated for months, as the stubborn will of the child resisted admitting he had problems and needed help.
Finally, in yet another moment when the child acted selfishly and belligerently, he was called to account for his actions. The child’s resistance seemed to break and, with tears, the child told his daddy that he needed Jesus to help him stop doing wrong things.
Let me point out that in the case of my missionary friend and in the case of the Character House analogy, the child’s attention is drawn to their inner condition. The children were taught to understand their inner attitudes and choices and to realise that they needed to rise to godly standards, for the sake of their own future.
Have you ever come to realise that?
Some people go through life with untrained, unrestrained, feral habits and lifestyle, and then blame all their problems on others. If you have never been given godly discipline then what ever happened to the ‘foolishness’ that was bound in your heart as a child? If that foolishness was never driven out by godly discipline then aren’t you still bound up in that same foolishness?
If you have torn planks out of your Character House then don’t blame others for the problems that invade your life, mind, heart and circumstances. If your life is crumbling because you didn’t build it right, don’t blame others.
However, you have a loving Heavenly Father who wants to save you and rebuild your life. I urge you to yield to Him and allow Him to train your heart and restore your soul, and rescue you from yourself.
“Lord God, I have made many foolish and selfish choices and destroyed the strong character and life you intended for me. I repent of that and ask You to forgive me. I also submit myself to You and ask You to save me from myself. Save me from my selfishness, resentment, pride, foolishness, self-delusion, shame, bondage and so many other things that destroy my life, my peace and my fruitfulness. I give the mess of my life to You and I call on You to rescue me and rebuild me, and train my heart to live in the fear of God and for Your glory. I ask this in Jesus’ lovely and powerful name. Amen.”