Friday, January 2, 2015

counting the cost

first, it's 2015! happy new year! for me this means I get a fresh calendar and a new notebook and a pen that isn't running out of ink and in general, a do-over. a new leaf. a fresh perspective. it's good for my writing and it's good for my soul. 

secondly, with all of this in the front of my mind, I've been thinking about how most of the past year, I've spent writing and thinking and at times, sort of pushing myself towards the idea of being brave. it was my year's "phrase" - but as 2014 came to a close, it didn't feel finished yet. I wasn't quite ready to let go of it and I wasn't sure why until I read an article this morning, shared by a former favorite teacher - although I remember him as more than just a beloved teacher. he was an academic coach through four years of UIL (during which we responded with 4 back to back district championships under his guidance) and several other years of Students For Jesus, including my leadership during my senior year. 

Needless to say, when he posts something, I can trust that it will probably be thoughtful and faithful and perhaps challenging, and I might want to respond with an essay (ahem, blog post.) like so many of his in-class discussions prompted for the night's homework.the original article is here, but the gist of it is that we are not prepared to count the costs for what we say we desire. While this article was posted by an author with a masters in Theological Studies, and a faithful Christ-follower, the actual text of the article wasn't so explicitly gospel centered - it mostly developed around a thoughtful conviction to reexamine why we do the things we do and why we want the things we want, and how far we are willing to go to reconcile our lives and our desires when they don't match up. It's worth noting that the author is working on his phD in a thesis program involving technology and culture. so a lot of the discussion here is: here's something wrong/bad/immoral/fill in the blank with any number of good or bad things that has been brought to light by the use and permeation of technology in our world as we know it today. 

But what I like most about this blog is that it takes it far beyond the discussion of whether technology is good or bad and whether it ultimately has helped or irrevocably disabled society. no, the discussion goes straight to the heart of things. read from this excerpt: "I once heard David Kline tell of Protestant tourists sight-seeing in an Amish area. An Amishman is brought on the bus and asked how Amish differ from other Christians. First, he explained similarities: all had DNA, wear clothes (even if in different styles), and like to eat good food.Then the Amishman asked: “How many of you have a TV?”Most, if not all, the passengers raised their hands.“How many of you believe your children would be better off without TV?”Most, if not all, the passengers raised their hands.“How many of you, knowing this, will get rid of your TV when you go home?”No hands were raised.“That’s the difference between the Amish and others,” the man concluded." 

I love that. It's so simple and yet it's so convicting. the point he's making here is about counting the cost of things. How often do I realize that something I am doing or desiring has a consequence (as everything does) but continue to do it or want it even after I subconsciously come to the conclusion that perhaps a different direction would be better? I even think about my blog here, the very one I am writing - yes, it sounds great on paper, but in the moment, faced with this or this - whatever it may be - do I say I want the noble and good thing but desire the less noble and less good thing more? Luke (6:45) gently reminds - "from the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks." this is the crux, the heart of the issue. Why are we doing the things we are doing, and more importantly, who are we doing them for? 

there's another part that I really like, a paragraph quoted from sociologist James Hunter’s book "about varying approaches to moral education in American schools. 

“We say we want the renewal of character in our day,” Hunter writes,“but we do not really know what to ask for. To have a renewal of character is to have a renewal of a creedal order that constrains, limits, binds, obligates, and compels. This price is too high for us to pay. We want character without conviction; we want strong morality but without the emotional burden of guilt or shame; we want virtue but without particular moral justifications that invariably offend; we want good without having to name evil; we want decency without the authority to insist upon it; we want moral community without any limitations to personal freedom. In short, we want what we cannot possibly have on the terms that we want it.”

This is where, as I was reading, I started to read with gospel fluency. No, this article isn't specifically directed towards Christians and their walks with Jesus. but I read it that way and I started to see some real truth formulating for this year. It's more than intention here, you see - it's about first taking real time to think honestly about what the sacrifice of living a gospel fluent life looks like, really. and then, from that place, going forward, letting it color my words and my actions and my choices, and remembering that this thing I am doing? It's not easy. It's not supposed to be. there is a cost that comes with laying down my life for Christ. that perspective changes everything. and being brave? well, you know, it might be more than just being so. 

but once I have counted the cost - and seen, more clearly than I did before, that a far greater cost has already been counted and paid willingly and lovingly - the value (different than the cost) is nonignorable. Just because it isn't easy doesn't mean it isn't thrilling and hopeful and uncomfortable and unnatural and healing and so incredibly worth doing that the realization often leaves me breathless and speechless. 

I like the way the article ended, so I'm going to end this in a similar style - without a neat resolution wrapped up in brown paper and tied with string, without a joyful call to action. Nope, just going to let these words sit here for a while - to "simmer," as an editor once instructed. With the old year quietly falling behind a new year, it's my inherent penchant to drift towards how this new year might be lived better than the last (I like resolutions and journaling and all of that, I can't change this about myself (: ). what it might hold, I can't say. but what it will require of me, I want to be ready for that. I like the way a Chi Alpha pastor once said it:  “I can easily choose to hold my breath for the next break or event on the calendar but I don’t want to be rescued from something externally for something I lack internally.”

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