I (David) remember it like it was yesterday. I was standing inside the building we had just dropped over a million bucks to build. It was the most cash we’d ever sunk into one investment, and by far the most…actually the only…commercial debt we’d ever taken on. And three months after we moved in, all of a sudden, I felt and heard what sounded like a major earthquake. Immediately Jason ran around the back of our building to discover our 30 ft. retaining wall completely collapsed. The edge of our building had sunk down and was even slightly hanging over the edge of a dirt cliff. It looked like it could plummet at any moment. My heart dropped to my feet. To say that Jason and I cried some ugly tears would be, well, an understatement. We went from a normal business day, with a solid commercial real estate investment in place, to potentially watching our 4-month old office building and almost two million bucks collapse off a 30 ft. cliff.
Twenty minutes earlier we had been standing at the base of that same wall with an engineer and our Dad. He looked up at the wall and said, “You know boys, I think this wall might collapse.” We were there with the engineer because we knew that the wall needed some attention because of some blocks that had moved, but never in our wildest dreams did we think it would actually fall. By God’s grace, we were back in the building when the wall came tumblin’ down.
My dad’s first response was to yell, “Lord Jesus, thank you we’re alive!”. I wish I could say that I did the same. I was in utter shock. If we lost this wall, and this building, we could potentially lose all that we had in it.
We reached out to our insurance company for help, only to find out that retaining walls were an exemption in our policy. Nice! Would’ve loved to know that when we bought insurance. Our contractor was worse. He said we’d be hearing from his lawyer. What?! The engineer who inspected the wall wouldn’t even pick up his phone.
As if this wasn’t enough, the cherry on top was the crowd gathering in a nearby Lowe’s parking lot to witness the carnage. In the crowd was a zoning official who told us that our building may be condemned by the City. This was starting to feel like a death sentence – all in a 30 minute window. Throughout the night we brought in dirt and shotcrete for a temporary fix. And by 7am we had gotten the building to a place where the tenants could safely come back in, but that alone cost us $187,000 in one night. Gulp.
A Wakeup Call
One of the reasons that day was so difficult was because early on in our business we decided not to take on debt of any sort. We were going to move at the speed of cash, not at the speed of debt. This is especially important for young business owners. If you absolutely must, then borrow to invest. But don’t borrow to consume. We knew that a debt-free business was what God wanted for us, and we stayed true to that conviction…until we found the perfect place for our new office building. At that point, our entrepreneurial ambition jumped in the driver’s seat. Rather than pulling back the reins, we floored it. We tied up most of our liquid cash in that building and got into a substantial amount of debt. So, not only had our wall fallen, but we knew that the Lord was saying something to us. He got our attention.
When we constructed the building, we had heard God’s “Yes,” but we hadn’t received His “Go,” and those are two very different things. Between God’s “Yes” and His “Go” is a period of waiting where you become the person who can handle what God said “yes” to.
For us, God’s “yes” meant that building an office on that piece of land was within the scope of God’s will for our business. But, because we knew we shouldn’t take on any debt, God’s “Go” meant we had to wait until we had the money to pay for it in full. But we conveniently disregarded that and pressed ahead.
So we borrowed the money, hired the contractor with the lowest bid, and spent the next year constructing a building that would nearly collapse just months after we moved in.
Never Compromise the Foundation
What we went through that day was a spiritual lesson we experienced in a literal way. God was also speaking to us about the importance of a rock-solid foundation. Wherever there is a weakness, it can usually be traced back to a flaw in the foundation. If it’s even slightly off, you’re going to pay for it down the road. When we experience struggles in our nation, in our families, and in our businesses it may be because there is some part of the foundation that’s been compromised.
God often uses storms to show us that our foundation needs some major attention, which is exactly what happened to us. Before our wall fell, the rain that month was unrelenting and exposed how our wall had no structural integrity – it was a fake. That’s actually the exact word the new engineer used to describe our old wall, he called it a “fake.” (that’s also what we get for hiring the cheapest contractor we could find!)
You can build on a fake foundation for a while, and things might actually seem to be going fine, but sooner or later, the truth will come out. Pay attention to areas where the Lord is turning the heat up, because He’s probably pointing out some flaws in the foundation.
The Best Foundation
Our foundation, in all that we do, is the word of God. There really is no better foundation.
The word of God is…
A strong defense
A safe boundary
These are all of the qualifications that you’d look for in a literal foundation, and this is what God’s word offers for every single component of our lives. As soon as we step away from God’s word, we are on shaky ground. That’s why we’ve been reading our Bible every day since we were 12. It’s not because we are amazing Christians or world-class Bible scholars. It’s because without that anchor we’d drift out to sea. Without that rock, our “house” would come crashing down.
In order to reconstruct our wall, we had to start from scratch with a brand new foundation. We dug as deep as 20 feet in some places. We knew that if we didn’t want this to happen again, we couldn’t cut any corners this time around. It was almost six months before we saw the first rock come out of the ground, and 11 months before the wall was done!
Our new wall wasn’t a fake. It was the real deal. Laying the proper foundation is never a quick fix, but it’s so worth it. Now, on nights when the rain starts falling, we can lay our heads down and sleep soundly. We know our wall isn’t going anywhere.
Beyond What We Could Ask or Imagine
One of the coolest parts of this whole story is that we didn’t have to go into any more debt to rebuild this wall. In my unbelief, I just assumed that we would have to borrow even more to get it fixed. Just this one more time Lord, I don’t see another way to pay for it, I said to myself. But the Lord graciously reminded me not to make the same mistake again.
I didn’t know how, but I felt Him telling us that we would find a way to pay for this wall without taking on any more debt. That very year, we landed two major clients and experienced one of our best years ever in our business. The new wall ended up costing over a million dollars to construct and we were able to pay for every dime of it. To this day, we are amazed at God’s provision. The wall still stands, the building is in great shape, and we paid for it all in cash. Only God could do that.
God’s “Yes” doesn’t mean God’s “Go.”
Wait before you move on what He said “Yes” to.
Run at the speed of cash, not debt.
Build on the solid foundation of God’s Word.
The Lord will provide when you do things His way.
I’m so thankful to learn these things through such a painful lesson. And one thing’s for sure, we won’t do that again!