First, let me apologize for the long blog vacation. That was partly due to my personal vacation, preaching revival services at another congregation and partly due to returning from those adventures to the garden ministry in absolute full swing! I will try to do better. That said and the new school year just about to begin: I remember clearly going off to first grade (no kindergarten in my locale in those days). I remember being nervous and excited. My parents had already taught me to sing the alphabet, count, tie my shoes and write my name. They taught me other things too but those stick in my mind. I knew my colors well, even some of the more exotic ones, from a childhood game called colored eggs (The mother hen and the wolf are designated. The wolf stands apart while the mother hen whispers assigned colors in each chick’s ear. The wolf shows up and demands eggs. What color eggs? All we chicks would ask in unison. The wolf began guessing colors. When and if your assigned color was guessed you took off and the wolf gave chase. If the wolf caught you, you were devoured – in the imaginary sense. If you completed a lap around the yard without being caught you were safe again with the mother hen. We learned quickly that red and blue were easy guesses. After a while, aquamarine and turquoise ceased to provide safety too. Puce?) Anyway – I was all over knowing my colors – and shapes and… The result was that my first day of school was academically non-challenging. My second day was plenty challenging – still not academically – I learned to sound out basic words in about five minutes and reading came easy. The challenge arose in that I hadn’t realized there was going to be a second day. I don’t know how I had got the idea. After all, my one-year older sister had disappeared from my life for hours each and every day the year previous. But, despite any academic promise I might have shown, I was one of those children that spent most of my time oblivious to reality. Somehow, I thought that when I came home from first grade that day – I was done. I guess my life was filled with events that seemed that way. You went to church. When you came home you were done. I mean, I know now that you were going back the next Sunday but at the time a week was such an impossibly long time it didn’t merit keeping track of and I wouldn’t even particularly know it was Sunday until I was wakened and told to get ready for church. Things like Christmas were even more that way. Christmas was great but it was one day once a year and if you think a week is a long time, a year is virtually incalculable! When I discovered that I would be COMPELLED not only to return to first grade the next day – and the day after that but for a number of days beyond conception – 12 whole grades - I was dismayed, appalled, shocked. Why hadn’t someone told me? Was there some way out? Not, as it materialized, until you were at least 16 and, unless my parents had a significant change of heart, not even then. If you had told me then that I would ultimately, willingly, VOLUNTARILY – expand my educational sojourn for six years beyond the twelve I had just found out about and earn a Master’s Degree, I might just have ran away, found the nearest railroad and taken up the life of a hobo. I had, after all, learned the previous Halloween how to produce a burnt cork beard, don a battered hat and tie a handkerchief onto the end of a stick so I had the fundamentals down. And why not? The life I knew, the life I had assumed was going to go on perpetually had just been buried under a mountain of compulsory learning anyway! Well, we all learn the difference between our early childhood conception of life and what it’s really going to be like. It just hits some of us harder than others. The lesson I learned from this turned out to be solid Biblical teaching. Don’t begin adventures, projects, processes, etc. without first counting the cost – have at least a fairly accurate reckoning of what is going to be required. And Jesus taught this lesson primarily about our decision to follow Him. There is a cost. To be clear – the cost is not the price of salvation which we could never pay no matter what. The cost is reckoned in the coin of what we become after we are saved. When we have named Him Lord and His purposes for our lives (even if He requires they be spent outright and all at once in a violent bloody end) are reckoned to be more important than whatever purposes we might once have held for ourselves. The second day of first grade taught me this lesson and I never forgot it. I have always found the cost to be small compared to what I have gained from knowing Christ. But each of us must count it for ourselves. Pretending (worse yet, leading others to believe) the cost doesn’t exist – is a crime.
Pastor and Author Terry Bailey, Senior Minister of Indian Run Christian Church