If you feel like you’ve got a lot of work to do, you’re right.
Over a decade ago, my family and I experienced a full-blown reformation. In the middle of a transfer to a new duty station, I was to attend jet training in Mississippi. For some very particular reasons, we decided to buck the traditional military housing route and placed our young family (of 5 children) in a travel trailer for the length of training. We purged ourselves of many distractions and spent much more time together learning and growing. The Lord used that time to bring about many changes and started us on a path of reconstruction.
The most crucial principle that stuck with me is that reconstruction is not a dusty academic concept. Instead, reconstruction is the pictures we hang on the walls, the sounds that fill our home, the people we spend time with, the businesses we start, the events in which we participate, the church we choose to attend, the conferences to which we travel, the families we host for supper, the games we play together, the traditions we start, and every way our lives are intertwined. Reconstruction is a form of life.
I remember seeing the blue bumper sticker when I bought my first book from Chalcedon. There was Rush’s head with a slogan meant for a hashtag. It’s a good thing they didn't tell me how many books he wrote because I’d probably have felt swamped! The overall concept of a reconstruction life came from Rush's commentary on Romans,
In Hebrews 10:38, the use of “the just shall live by faith” has reference to sanctification. In all these instances, the word is live, not be saved; it is thus more inclusive. We must remember also, as I pointed out in Salvation and Godly Rule, that the very word salvation is inclusive of far more then simply being assured of heaven; it means health and victory, here and now and forever more.1
It occurred to me that there was a stark difference between the concept of the possession of faith and the activity of faith. “The just shall live by faith,” meant just that—the life of faith. This brought me to a reality that I was becoming very familiar with throughout my reading and reformation.
When I see pictures of myself from years ago, I look at that young man and think, “Wow, he needs to get it together.” I know what that young man is thinking about and doing with his time, and I know he could be using it much more wisely. I want to kick him in the rear sometimes. I honestly hope I never lose this perspective because it helps me remember that there is a never-ending task ahead of me.
Reconstruction starts with the man in the mirror. He has to get his act together, repent of his sins, focus on the reformation of self. Even as I continue to grow and mature and conquer old foes, new ones never stop sneaking up.
This makes me realize that I've got a lot to learn! The benefits of homeschooling abound because there is so much to learn about our history and society. We can learn together while accomplishing a major task of reconstruction.
Leaving an Inheritance
The concept of inheritance is inescapable, and the life of reconstruction cannot neglect this heritage. We are both the beneficiaries and grantors of legacy.
“Our lives are not our own. We are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.” - David Mitchell2
Our legacy is more than the collection of assets on the balance sheet. It is the heart of our life’s message—the total sum of values and vision we leave to others. The approach we take to money, property, business, culture, faith, identity, and virtue are the elements of the legacy that we receive, develop, and pass along to others.
As I became more astutely aware of the impact I was going to leave, my attention began to focus more and more on the relations I already possessed.
Marriage to a Difficult Man
I have a great appreciation for my wife, which has grown over the years. The Christian life is hard and challenging, especially when your faith is the kind that presses against a pagan and pseudo-Christian culture. Marriage is a garden bed for the life of reconstruction, and my wife has labored diligently now for over two decades raising children. She is now watching many of the fruits of those labors launch into the culture, assaulting hell’s gates.
Spending years living in the trenches of daily home life requires us to attend to our marriage as a fundamental relationship in the home. The life of reconstruction regularly takes my focus outward, which is only possible when home life is nurtured. A critical legacy that will be left from life is marriage. Attending to it is fundamental.
Thankfully, my wife is engaged in measuring relational unity in the home. I depend on her to let me know when there are turmoils that need to be addressed. We work together to keep short accounts and leverage resources if we need more help to repair relational breeches.
Recently I had several very depressed children when the entire spring and summer calendars got axed from COVID-19. We took the opportunity to take a long-range perspective on the crisis and see what weaknesses it exposed in our home and businesses. We met regularly to focus on the current situation and find deliberate tasks that we could parse out amongst the family. People teamed up or were assigned, security, food, storage, fuel, communications, transportation, finances, records, etc. It didn’t immediately remove the pain of the situation but finding a way to overcome the situation brought us all together. This helped us heal as a family.
A Rising Tide
I make my children do a lot of hard things. I believe that when you set low goals, you’re not as encouraged when you hit them. If they are to become accustomed to the life of reconstruction, they better learn that it's going to be hard. Sometimes I make them read hard books. Regularly I’ll require them to do something that stretches their time or abilities. I’m that kind of dad, and I like it. I also love to help them figure out ways to accomplish that task in a way they might not have thought about before. I think this has a lot to do with my entrepreneurial spirit, but I’ll let them accomplish tasks in creative ways.
When my 15-year-old daughter Caydence was early in her reading years, I gave her a much harder book to read than she was capable of reading. Along with the assignment came expected tears and frustration. Sometimes my wife is leery when I provide the kids with an exceptionally difficult task; she doesn't like to see them frustrated and fail. But I want them to experience challenge, even failure. If we don't become accustomed to failure, we are too likely to never engage in any endeavor because it might not succeed.
In this instance, I let Caydence struggle with the book for a while, then I gave her an idea. I told her, “You know, that book is on audiobook. You could listen to it being read while you follow along. That’ll count.” That was a quick decision! Suddenly there was a new way to accomplish the task.
That same daughter was struggling through some communication challenges during a speech she was presenting. We discussed what the difficulties were and determined a few key areas to focus on and improve. In short order, the struggles were no longer evident, and instead of criticisms, commendations were appearing. A few failures became an inspiration for future successes.
After twenty years in the military, it was time to do something else. It was exciting being a jet pilot, the outcome of a lifelong dream. I was continually drawn to the spheres where my influence was most significant and where reconstruction was most pertinent—in my home. Years before we finally left the Navy, we pursued several different avenues for our family's future.
After traveling the nation for many years, we were excited about putting roots in the soil. We’d had enough of the constant travel and trips away from home. We needed a new endeavor that kept us together and made an income.
Our entrepreneurial spirit birthed several businesses through which we serve our community and provide for our family as well. The opportunities for reconstruction have increased with the number of projects and the clients we assist. Far from slowing down, the task of reconstruction has become broader and more comprehensive as our business expands and grows.
How can we help teach others? What have we received that we can transmit to others?
Because we heartily believed in the reconstruction of life, we started a family ministry dedicated to encouraging and blessing others. It is a humble endeavor through which we create and share different resources we’ve found valuable over the years. We’ve written a few catechisms that have been beneficial in training our children about the faith. We also have collaborated with other local families engaged in the mature, hope-filled faith. Together we have hosted regional conferences for collaboration and encouragement in the issues pertinent to our locale.
As we have been spending more time together, we have found even more areas where we can take the implications of the faith for all of life seriously. None of us is complete in our reformation, nor is the task of reconstruction close to being done. We’ve found new areas where we can apply the faith in our lives and we're diligently doing that.
Frankly, that’s the part that makes reconstructing life so exciting. There are still years of adventure awaiting us in the future. Failures, the seeds of future victories, will ensue, and we get the opportunity to go through it all together. All we had to do was #readrushdoony.
1. R. J. Rushdoony, Romans and Galatians (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1997), p. 9.
- Joseph M. Graham
Joseph M. Graham is a retired U.S. Navy jet pilot and founder of Reconstruction Life, a media-based ministry that is “Encouraging Families and Building a Brighter Future.” He’s also the founder and host of The Pacific Northwest Christian Reconstruction Symposium. Learn more at http://reconstructionlife.com.