Cost and the Illusion of Everything

Everything we do costs something. You exchange money for something that you need or want. You exchange your time and energy for a few hours each weekday to receive a paycheck. But you have lost that money. You will never regain those hours.

Jesus told us to “count the cost” before we commit to a course of action. Jesus was telling us to recognize the significance and the consequences of our choices. He told us this because there is always a cost.

And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it–
Luke 14:27-28 NKJV

Choose to do one thing, and the cost is that you will not be doing another thing. The years doing a thing are years lost to doing a different thing.

Feminism once offered women a slogan: “You can have it all.” Many have since found that in real time, this is not true. They worked hard at a fulfilling career, but they were not at home with their children when they began to talk and walk. Their children grew up, and there was an uncomfortable disconnect between them. The bonding designed by God for mother and child was sometimes incomplete. They had to give away one thing to obtain another thing.
If you are a young woman, it’s easy to think that you will have all the options, always. You will pursue this field, but you will also be able to do all the other things you want to do…sometime. Someday.

This is an illusion.

First, you will spend time doing one thing at the cost of all other alternatives that you would have been doing at that same time.

Second, each life choice will place you on a path which may be difficult to leave. I think that many young women have pursued careers expecting that marriage and family would happen later.

Is family life the default, something which just “happens” to everyone at the expected time of life? Decades later, many of these ladies are unmarried still, without having chosen to be so. Could the requirements of career have placed some of those women on a path away from the development of family life? In some cases, did two paths diverge too dramatically?

Conversely, a woman who has put her career “on hold” while she raises her children for a few years will encounter a whole new world when she tries to return. She will not find her job and all its circumstances intact. The world has moved on and the path she has walked has transformed her.

Third, time is limited. There comes a day when you realize in a real way that you will not have time to do all those things you were planning to do. Will you be content with what your life has been about?

Young women are given expectations that we can obtain without cost. No downside is suggested for our life choices. No cost. That is a lie.

There is a cost to every choice, good or bad.

A person who is trying to live an honest Christian life finds that even when we do a thing which is very good, even when we choose to do the best, the most noble, the most holy thing, there is a cost. We work hard to achieve a good thing, but we lose something in exchange. That’s the world’s economy.

“But I was doing exactly what God asked me to do!”

Don’t the acts of obedience and self-sacrifice cost as well? Do they not cost more? If it is a very worthy deed it may take more from us. If it’s worth doing well, we strive with our minds, our emotion, our strength, causing wear and tear and aging to our physical bodies, making us more emotionally fragile, diminishing ourselves.
As we work to provide for the unending needs of those who depend on us, we age and wear out. Time passes. We really do get used up and poured out.

John Mark McMillan’s song, “Economy”, expresses the economy of the world we live in and the entropy which plagues us.

Raise your voice
Chase away the ghosts
The pain that haunts a heart
The things we fear the most
The entropy of life
The slow decay of time
That wars against our bones

All these sinking ships
Are rolled against the wave
The raging of the tide
The tyranny of days
And sleep would chase us down
Sleep would have its way
And night would fall upon us all

But I believe you can overcome my economy
You can dig me out of the grave
I believe you can overcome my economy
You can dig me out of the grave

The weight of love
It rests upon us all
The people we’ve become
The people that we’ve known
Longing for a day
Arrested by a hope
That death could not foreclose upon

I believe you can overcome my economy
You can dig me out of the grave
And I believe you can overcome my economy
You can dig me out of the grave
I believe you can over come my hearts economy
Yeah you can dig me out of the grave

 

This world works this way because it is a fallen world. (See Genesis 3) The sin of human pride and selfishness distorted the world. The fabric of the universe became what we in our self-centeredness wanted it to be. We chose the way the world works.

But we did not count the cost.

The cost in a fallen world is that we die a very slow death all of our lives. We tire, our bodies are destroyed, and we feel frustration, loss, despair, boredom, futility. Our work is constantly ruined and dismantled. In time, our accomplishments vanish. Finally, we die. That is the economy we live in while we’re in the world.

But God’s economy still exists, and will prevail.

The world as God originally created it is hard for us to imagine. All things would be perpetually new. Not only would there be no death, there would be no aging, no illness, no decay. The violence of nature would be alien. Think about a world without sin, no one ever committing an act which is self-serving. We can’t even imagine this.
And in a future age, all will be restored to the way God wants it to be. He will bring his economy back to our world when He returns, making all things new. Our world will end, righteousness will be brought to bear, and all those evils and sadnesses will be no more.

God’s perfect economy is different than the world’s. He will renew the lost years. C.S. Lewis wrote, “They say of some temporal suffering, ‘ no future bliss can make up for it,’ not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory.”

Yes, God can overcome my economy; even though I have been subject to the downward spiral of worldly decline, he can dig me out of that grave, alive!

We are called as believers to see beyond the world’s economy. We are expected to see as God sees, to see God’s economy working in and through the world we live in. To understand the true economy behind, beneath, above the world’s economy. God’s ways, hidden from view except to those who trust Him.

And we are called to act on the truth that we see, regardless of what others in the world do.

12Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.
13 These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
15 But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one.
16 For “who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ. I Cor 2 NKJV


So what’s a Christian young woman to do?

I want you to realize, now, that you do not have the ability to have it all, do it all, or do everything “someday.” Someday will never come. You must make wise decisions concerning which things in which you will invest your time and energy. Choose carefully what you will spend your life doing. Neither your time nor your efforts are endless. In our world’s economy, you cannot be in two, or twenty, places at the same time.

Please have an honest conversation with yourself. What really matters to you? What do you feel you must do in your lifetime? What must you become?

More to the point, what does God have planned for your life? Maybe finding that out ought to be the first step.

The world will relentlessly insist that you had better get your career ducks in a row before you make the sorry mistake of diminishing yourself into that cookie-cutter mold of wife and mommy. Because then you won’t have an identity, and let’s face it, you won’t matter.

Do you believe that?

Recognizing the cost, how will you invest your time and energy? What will your life be about?

Whose economy do you live in?

(John Mark McMillan is highly recommended artist—his song lyrics, most profound poetry, speak to the very real experience of a disciple of Christ living in a fallen world. And he is awesome in live performance!)

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