Counting the Cost

My beloved father was in the commercial construction business in Dallas for over 35 years.  Over the years of his professional career he built over 100 churches and almost as many schools. He was an honest man, a good man, a godly man. Only recently it occurred to me as well that he had a social conscience – he chose not to construct buildings that would offer detrimental goods and services. I remember a discussion about a liquor store job at an economic time when he needed the business. I remember, too, his firm stand on this non-negotiable principle.

After he died in 2005, I found Luke 14:28-30 marked in his Bible, noted in his precise engineer’s handwriting as the Estimator’s Verse: “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build, and was not able to finish’” (ESV). My father was a good estimator - in his work and in his life.

When we grieve the death of one we love, most of us – at some time sooner or later – reach a moment when we realize we must rebuild our lives. Yet many of us pause to consider what it is we’re going to have to do to help ourselves – we stop, sit down, and count the cost. We question whether we really want to expend the effort for an unknown future. One thing I learned from my father – by example and observation – is that building is risky business. It takes commitment, consistency, persistence, and a whole lot of intestinal fortitude. But when we risk and invest ourselves in rebuilding for the future, likely our reward will greatly exceed even our best expectation, "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him" (1 Corinthians 2:9 NKJV).

When we’re near the end of the journey and have done the most arduous work of grief, sometimes we feel we’ve run out of spiritual and mental energy. We wonder whether we have the stamina and self-discipline to rebuild our lives. But if we’re willing, emotionally we roll up our sleeves with resolve and determination to complete the job of restoration.

We hope and dream again, we prepare and plan for the rest of our lives. We do this, too, at our own pace, unfazed by the urging and suggestions of others. We don’t know how long rebuilding will take or when we’ll be finished, but with single-minded focus we do the slow, steady work of reassembling of the best of who we are, shaped and transformed by the best of the one we love and grieve.

Counting the cost is about assessing whether we have the resources and reserves to envision the future - a future of goodness, wonder, and purpose. Believing in God’s plan for our lives is the work of faith, “We look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18 NRSV). And after we count the cost, we take the risk and rebuild our lives. With God as our unshakeable foundation we finish the work, renewed in fulness of joy and God's perfect peace.

For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.

1 Corinthians 3:9 NRSV

Keep me this day, O God, in the construct of your future. Amen.


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