Monday, November 7, 2011

the cost

When people ask "What is the hardest part about living in Haiti?" The answer is easy. It has nothing to do with illness, bugs, heat, or lack of bacon, milk, and strawberries. It is not the daily interaction with heart-breaking poverty or the front-row seat to see  the devastating consequences of it. Those things are hard, but those things are not the hardest.

It has everything to do with wanting to stay connected to the family and friends we deeply love and left. It has everything to do with feeling guilty for letting them down, for missing big things in their lives, for being distant and different and sometimes hard to relate to or understand. It has everything to do with knowing we are where we should be and knowing that some are hurt by that. It is horrible to make a choice that hurts people you love... It's uncomfortable and makes us squirm.

I read this the other day and thought about how much simpler it sounds in print:
"You can only obey God," she wrote to a friend who faced the breaking of human ties to follow Christ. "Let us give ourselves away to Him for His world---away down to the deepest depths of our being, time, influence---and home if He calls us to it; but our heart of hearts first."

"Separation has nothing austere or narrow about it when it is unto Him. To bear His Name with all that is wrapped up in it of fragrance and healing and power, to enter into His life and share His eternal purpose, is a calling for which it is well worth counting all things but loss." (LR. Govan Stewart: The Love That Was Stronger)

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The excerpt(s) below were taken from the blog of an inspirational and bold young missionary in Uganda named Katie. You can read her entire post here.  (Please do.)

"A few days ago an American woman who had spent about three days of her life in a third world country looked at me and said, “I would SO love to do what you do. I would do it in a heartbeat. Oh, I would take 14 kids in a second!” It is a good thing that I was having a graceful day, because I said, “Aw that’s nice.” But my not so graceful heart was angry. And the not so graceful voice in my head wanted to say to her, “Ok then, do it. I can have you 14 orphaned, abandoned, uncared for children tomorrow. So here is what you have to do: Quit school. Quit your job. Sell your stuff. Disobey and disappoint your parents. Break your little brother’s heart. Lose all but about a handful of friends because the rest of them think you have gone off the deep end. Break up with the love of your life. Move to a country where you know one person and none of the language. And when you are finished, I will be here waiting with your 14 children!” I wanted to ask her what was stopping her, knowing that the answer would be her comfort. I wanted to look at her and tell her that my life was full and joyful and WONDERFUL, but I also wanted to tell her to COUNT THE COST. Because my life IS full and joyful and wonderful, but it is NOT easy. My life is NOT glamorous. I do not expect it to be. I do not think that anything about carrying a cross was easy or glamorous either.

Which brings me to my point. I am not actually that angry about what that woman said, it was just an offhanded comment. But it got me to thinking… How many times to we grieve our sweet Savior’s heart because we refuse to COUNT THE COST? How many times do we choose comfort instead of the cross?

In my NIV Bible, the header above Luke 9:57-62 says, “The Cost of Following Jesus.” Here it is, plain and simple, laid out for us by the Lord. “As they were walking along the road, a man said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.” He said to another man, “Follow me.” But the man replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my Father.” Jesus said to Him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Still another said, “I will follow you Lord, but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” Jesus replied, “No one who puts His hand to the plow and looks back will be fit to enter the Kingdom of God.” THIS IS SERIOUS STUFF. A little later in Luke 14:25, “The Cost of Being a Disciple,” Jesus tells the crowds gathered around Him, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes even his own life – he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry His cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to complete it; everyone who sees it will ridicule him saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first consider if he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and ask for terms of peace. In the same way any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.

In Luke, in the days of Jesus, He expected EVERYTHING of his disciples. Do we believe that He requires the same today? We sure don’t act like it.

Do we really know and believe in the Jesus of the Bible. Because if we do, if we believe what He says is true, our lives will be powerfully, unimaginable, radically different than the lives of those around us. He requires EVERYTHING.

I wonder today if I had been one of the people listening to Jesus as He spoke in Luke 9 and 14, if Jesus would have convinced me to follow Him or if I would have walked away. I believe I would have really really wanted to say goodbye to my family. I wonder about “Christians” today. We wear Jesus on our T-shirts, we wear His cross around our neck and a bumper sticker with His name on it on our car. Have we just laid the foundation without being able to build the building? Does Jesus feel like I did when a woman I didn’t know told me she would love to do what I do but I knew that she never would? Do we claim the precious name of Jesus Christ without counting the cost? Without being willing to REALLY give it all? And does Jesus, in His infinite grace, look at us and say, “Aw, that’s nice,” but really with the furry that he flipped over the tables in the temple want to spit our lukewarm selves out of His mouth?

This is heavy on my heart. If we believe that these words are true, the way we are living is not tolerable. How can we live in willful disobedience and claim to know Jesus Christ?"

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The first time I read Katie's post it was painful for me to read.  At my core I am selfish and immature. I live in a bit of denial and her post served to prove to me that I want to ignore the hard parts of what being obedient could (and does) mean.  I want to have no hardship and I want to experience only the perks of following Christ ... I want to give up nothing to serve Him and I want to be rewarded for giving up nothing.  I want no suffering for myself or my family and I want an easy road. When hard/horrible things have happened I've felt angry at God, ripped off, and entitled to better.

I am sharing these words because they are the things stirring in my heart, mind, and soul right now. They aren't easy things. 

I'd like to become a person that accepts the hard parts every bit as graciously as I accept the easy and fun parts. I'd like to whine less when things are hard. I'd like to lament less about the things that have changed. I'd like to say without reservation "I trust Jesus with everything I have and everything I am and at all costs I choose to walk with Him." And then,after that, I'd like it to be true.


Nicky B said...

I would like it to be true for me too. You are "Katie" to me - you did it - went there, made the sacrifice - I am still here not sure what I am waiting for , not sure how many more excuses I am going to make.
Be blessed for the steps you have taken in obedience.

Rhiannon DeBaylo said...

this is absolutely so meaningful to me right now. hard words, but i needed to hear them. i love that this is conviction, not condemnation speaking. conviction is followed by the grace and mercy of the father, not the guilt, shame, and worthlessness of the enemy. thanks for this.

A Stone Gatherer said...

I live a much more comfortable life then you do, but I have to say that God has been working on my heart in the very same area. What am I really willing to give up for him? He has asked me "How much do you desire "only" me?"

Thanks for this post!

hopefuloffive said...

This IS hard to read, I wanted to skim it after all who wants to be challenged to really dig into I re-read and will read it again later, maybe I should print it? I enjoyed Katies book, challenging, convicting, hard to believe she is 22yo. Thanks, hard truths.

Mari Bryant- Marks said...

Wow. I have no words. So much to pray over and think over. Thank you.

Marla Taviano said...

First of all, that pic of you and Paige is just stunning. Second of all, thank you for sharing from your heart. I ache for you and all you've given up, yet I'm so, so thankful for the good, good work you're doing in Haiti.

I'm praying that our hearts will be totally open to ANYTHING God has for us after these five weeks in Cambodia no matter the cost.

I looooove Katie's blog and book, and we're taking it on our trip with us to read as a family.

Love you, friend! Praying for you right now!

Lindsey V said...

Oh, yeah....this will preach.
I was just at a blogging conference last weekend which was fabulous, and then I went to the social justice seminar learning how to convey your message in the right way and not provoke compassion fatigue. I was intrigued, and the panel of speakers did a good job in their presentation.

Then people started asking questions, and honestly, I wanted to get up and punch some people and say, "GET OVER YOURSELF!" After time, some venting, and a few hours, the Lord helped me have grace for them and to remember where I struggle and fail and have selfishness and pride.

Thank you for this clear reminder that #1 - I am not crazy in the way I view the world as a "weird" MK and #2 - I am not immune to wanting to feel safe, comfortable, and living the easy life JUST because my worldview might have been open up a BIT earlier than many in the world.

CC said...

But I am so good at whining when things are hard. It might be the only real talent I have. (Well, that and lecturing my kids. Not that they pay attention, so that one is wasted.)

Thanks for making me think. Even tho it hurts my brain... and my heart.


elizabethre said...

Beautifully written and shared. Thank you.

Brenda said...

Wow! Thank you Tara! You really hit my heart hard today because these are ALL the things we have been discerning as well. I too do not want to be selfish and every part of me wants to go and do what God calls me to do. The other part of me wants nothing to do with it because I know it will hurt. This too is the hardest part for me. I do feel selfish and I know family and friends will not really understand the call God may have placed on our lives. Thank you for being real and putting it all out there! Love you guys so much!!

Norberto and Julie said...

This post was especially meaningful to me. Thanks so much for sharing.

The McClain's said...

I just want to thank you again for sharing your soul, your heart, your struggles. This was so great for me today.
Brooke in Costa Rica

Mom of Three Elkins' said...

Wow! God planted this in my few minutes of quiet time husband and I are seeking God right now on the path he has called our family to...we know we are called to go - this makes it even more real and a whole bunch of other emotions! We will be making some decisions this weekend about applying through mission organizations and would love your prayer for us as we step out in faith AND obedience to go and make disciples!

Mama D.'s Dozen said...

Thanks for your transparency. I remember clearly that post that Katie wrote. Powerful!

So sorry that you are apart from family; but so glad for all that the Lord is doing in you and through you. One of our daughter's has been a missionary in Argentina for 3 1/2 years. While we miss her dearly, we know that the Lord has called her to the work there.

Even though my husband and I have stayed in the same state that our families are in ... they have chosen to not have relationship with us because of our walk with Christ ... because they don't understand the life that we live (homeschooling crazy large family) ... because we won't participate in the things that they choose to do (drinking, etc...). So, while we are physically near ... we could live across the world and have more contact. So hard. So sad.

Stacy K. said...

God's providence in the timing of this post is complex and amazing! Thank you for taking the time to share this and to add the excerpt from Katie's blog; I needed the reminder and to be drawn back to focusing on the truth. I'm praising God that He not only knows my struggles but lovingly guides me through them.

Britney said...

Thank you for sharing what's on your heart. Earlier this week I read Katie's post on counting the cost, and it was very convicting for me. In 17 days I leave the comforts of the US to return to Haiti (I work with Willem and Beth Charles' ministry on the mountain). I'm really excited to return to the ministry there, but I'm definitely sad about leaving my loved ones. Thanks for reminding me that as much as it hurts to leave, a) I'm not the only one on this journey and b) following Christ will always require counting the cost.

The Beaver Bunch said...

I've had this post saved in my reader since you posted it.

I remember that post from Katie. It made me cry then, and made me cry again now.

I'll be honest, my family is PISSED we're choosing to go. PISSED and totally PISSED.

Until recently, my Mom and I have had a very strained relationship. It's been hard. Last month, we discussed just calling the whole thing off because it was SO HARD.

But that's not what God has told us to do. He's told us to GO. As hard as it seems right now, we will obey and go.

Thank you for reminding me that no one goes or obeys without a cost. And He is always worth the cost. Always.

Karen said...

Thanks for sharing and for your challenge! I know this was written many months ago, but none the easier to live out now. Appreciate your family and your sacrifice and the example you set for us! love you

Nancy said...

Hi, I just came across your blog through a different Blog, and saw the tab "the Cost" and was curious what it was about. I want to say a thank you for this post. My husband and I are in the US as he finishes school, and feels God calling him to missions. I at the age of 16 remember a moment during a prayer time God told me Nancy be willing to go, and of course I immediately though ok...however, as we have been going through a large amount of transitions here, and my husband being gone a lot, I have been struggling, missing friends, and relationships, and things. Well, your post reminded me that first this is not that Big of a loss yet... and also, I love being reminded of the cost... that if we are to follow Christ with everything we have we are going to be giving up a WHOLE lot more. I've been feeling like God has been saying get ready, lets get started. I also love your quote "
I wonder today if I had been one of the people listening to Jesus as He spoke in Luke 9 and 14, if Jesus would have convinced me to follow Him or if I would have walked away. I believe I would have really really wanted to say goodbye to my family." I know that I would have wanted to go back and bury my father, or say good by, or at least take time at post office to get a letter out...but that's not how Christ worked and I think your right, about Do we believe he requires the same today of us.... Thank you for your transparency and I hungry to seek Gods Clarity in my life concerning the COST and God to help me with the heart ache of the cost...

Nathan and Kim said...

Hello Troy and Tara! Our family recently moved to Nicaragua. I have found it so difficult to explain or describe my heart regarding the cost of this move. I came across your blog post on "the cost" and it says EXACTLY what I feel. May I have your permission to use your words as a post on our blog? I will be pleased to quote you and give reference to your blog? Thank you. God bless your ministry!!

T and T Livesay said...

Hi Kim -
Yes, of course! Stay strong.