By Lisa Huddleston
“For which of you, wanting to build a tower, doesn’t first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, after he has laid the foundation and cannot finish it, all the onlookers will begin to make fun of him, saying, ‘This man started to build and wasn’t able to finish’” (Luke 14:28-30).
I woke up this morning with a memory running through my head. It wasn’t just a dream, because it was something that had actually happened to me when I was around 13 or 14 years old. I have no idea what triggered the memory (maybe all of the snow that recently fell in Middle Tennessee), but I felt that the thought was there for a purpose. Was God trying to tell me something? Perhaps.
From the time I was in kindergarten until the summer after the 10th grade, my family lived in Michigan, and, as a child, I enjoyed the winters as much as the summers. Naturally, much of the fun that we kids cooked up centered around the many lakes that were in the area. In the summer, we jumped off docks and floated in inner tubes while carp and blue gill nibbled at our toes. In the winter, we swept away the snow from the frozen surface to make bumpy ice rinks for figure skating, racing, and hockey. It was a blast, but it could also prove to be dangerous especially in the freezing or thawing stages. Was the ice thick enough? Was it still safe to go out and rescue forgotten items or would we have to sacrifice them as we watched from the shore while they disappeared in stages? I remember watching from my school bus window for a whole week as a shopping cart met its watery demise. Was it still there? Yes … until one day it was gone.
However, my nature was not always so cool and calculating. One late winter day, as my friend, Lori, and I took a walk along the shore of the thawing lake, we saw something that kicked me into action without any thought at all. A large dog had fallen through the ice and was struggling with all he had to get out of the water. We called for him to come to us, but it became clear that he wasn’t going to make it. Without thinking and wearing a full length wool coat and boots, I ran out on the ice to save the poor dog. Of course, you can imagine what happened. In seconds, I also broke through the thinning ice and found myself in way over my head. I can still see my friend screaming on the shoreline as the dog and I bobbed in and out of the water breaking more and more ice until we finally made it to a place where we could touch the bottom of the lake. I still remember the heavy weight of my saturated coat as we made our way back to Lori’s house to call my mom, and I still feel the relief when I think of what logically should have happened.
Did I learn my lesson? Yes and no. I don’t run out onto thin ice anymore—unless a dog is drowning. I do still have the same tendency to follow my passion without counting the cost. In some ways, I feel proud of that trait. Wasn’t it noble for me to rescue that poor dog? Didn’t everything turn out it the end? Well, that’s one way of looking at it; but, another way is that it would have been pretty stupid for me to die as a 13-year-old in order to save a dog. And how would it have affected my friend who witnessed my craziness? Or my family who would have lost me? Scenes from “A Wonderful Life” pass through my head as I ponder the whole thing.
Yet, I am who I am. A woman who gets carried away by her emotions at times, and one who needs to be careful to count the cost of her actions. Others are affected by the things I do, and my actions matter.
Jesus gave this warning to the crowds who were traveling with him. He knew that many who were in the crowd were thrill seekers driven by their emotions and only there to see the show. He knew that many would fall away as soon as the going got tough. So he gave them a challenge. “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother; wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, and even his own life—he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26-27).
I love that Jesus didn’t tell the crowd to calm down and deny their emotions. He knew that passion was running high, and he didn’t squelch it. But what he did do was remind them that there would be consequences for the actions they took and that they should consider those before breaking through the ice.
Count the cost. My life for a dog’s? No, logically that would be a poor exchange. My life for Jesus’ life in me? Oh yes. Definitely worth the plunge!