There is a growing awareness for those who seek to follow Jesus that He might be leading in ways and to places different than we signed up for. We have to learn to sit gently to our own plans, our own dreams of what life is and should be. Jesus’ suggestion that we count the cost before choosing to follow Him comes to surface. What it will actually cost us to follow Him is seen immediately to be impossible to calculate or know.
It is then that His wisdom and strategy bubbles to the surface. He has called us to “take up our cross”. That can only mean one thing. He is calling us to die – to give up, from the beginning the right to determine our goals and destiny and give it over to Him. That is the cost we need to calculate. He may not, in every case, call us to do what we say we are willing to do. He may very well let us set our own goals and determine our own destiny. And that is all well and good. But He may also remind us that we are His – we have given over the rights of self-determination to Him. He gets to choose our life for us. And we get to say, “Thank You.”
Most often it shows up in the unexpected things that we did not plan for – the life that happens while we were expecting something else. A sudden catastrophic illness – the death of a loved one – an unexpected promotion to a position of greater responsibility – a chance conversation with a new friend that becomes transformational. When we give Him our life, He takes us seriously. And sets about the work of making us like Christ. For most of us, that is a full day’s work!
How do we respond when things go differently than we had planned? First, we remember that we have given Him the right to do whatever He wants with us. He will not take it unless we give it – but having given it, He takes us seriously. Second, we remember that He is very good at taking what we give Him and bringing new life in new ways out of it. So, third, we give thanks, with joy. It takes some training – but we learn to whistle while He works. To learn to worship in response to the life we are given. To learn that grace happens.
While we’re at it, we should also count the cost of not taking up our cross – of not following Him. Turns out, He is offering us the deal of a lifetime. A graced life does not always go the way we intend - or expect. But it will always be acceptable, satisfactory, and bring us to the real desire of our hearts.