It was a simple project – the screws from the previous piece of wood were still in place. All I had to do was unscrew them, put the new board in place, and put the original screws back in. With my handy drill, I proceeded to unscrew the first screw, only to have it break in half. Thinking perhaps the power drill was more torque than the screw could handle, I got an old fashioned screw driver. I got the same results – the screw broke in half. I realized I was not going to unscrew the remaining screws, so I got a pair of pliers – and got the same results. I now had five headless half-screws in the place where I needed to put the new piece of lumber. It was time for the big guns
I got the vise grips.
This was a project I allotted fifteen minutes for. It took almost an hour. And the words of a friend of mine from long ago came back to me. “Any construction project, no matter how simple, is going to take at least twice as long as you think it will and cost at least twice as much as you budgeted for it.”
Perhaps you have seen the bumper sticker: God is not finished with me yet. We are – all of us – under construction until the day we die. And if we are honest about it and faithful to it, we have to admit that the “good life”, the “spiritual life” is harder than some might make it out to be. It doesn’t have a lot to do with money, though insufficient funds can be a problem on many different levels. It does have a lot to do with what Jesus meant when he said “Count the cost” (Luke 14:28).
It would have been easy enough for me to rationalize NOT putting that board in place. It has nothing to do with the structural integrity of the project – at least, not directly. It is really more of a guard intended to direct water away from the opening between two boards. The last piece rotted away; I can expect this one to do the same. What’s the point, I might ask.
What’s the point of minding your tongue, of controlling your thoughts, of curbing your appetites, of reaching out to that neighbor, of greeting a stranger?
Pope Francis is in the land and he is talking about poverty, climate change and immigration. Ending poverty is taking much longer than some would have thought 50 years ago. Climate Change is requiring more than just re-cycling. We may have to alter our life style. Immigration is like a flood of humanity bearing down on the shores of nations whose citizens are safer, richer and presented with more opportunity – but to truly welcome them we are going to have count the cost.
Here’s the thing about Christianity: It costs everything. It costs us our parents, our children, our wealth, our dreams and fantasies. It’s not that we can’t enjoy the relationships with loved ones or the blessing of material goods; it’s just that it requires a mindset and a heart that is awake to the power of community, to the grace of blessings shared, to the potential that rises to the surface when opportunity is present for everyone.
Put another way, following Jesus costs more than you have budgeted … and it’s going to take a lot longer than you thought.