Counting the Cost

Since I’m working to rip the veil completely, it’s time to share the things that have made the past 2 months so difficult. I know I will still have days where I still struggle with one or more of these thoughts, but I’m so grateful to be aware of them and know how to combat the rough days.

As the days crawled by, and I struggled to figure out the source of my inner turmoil, I realized that a large part of the weight I was carrying was guilt. As I watched from afar as my friends struggled with life’s twists and turns, I felt like I had abandoned them during their time of need. While the fact that some of their difficulties started at the same time as my departure, I am aware that there is not a cause and effect relationship, yet I was still feeling guilty as though I had somehow brought about their circumstances.

In addition to feeling I had caused hardships for others at worst, or not been present for them at best, I have also been aware that I have missed big moments in the lives of friends and family. A good friend got married in August, and I wasn’t there. Friends and family have moved, gotten engaged, and had any number of other life events that I have shared with them only through Facebook, and that is just in the 7 months I’ve been gone. As I think about the indefinite months ahead, what else might I miss?

Another thing I missed was being there for my dad and his side of the family when his mother died in May. My grandma had been sick for a very long time, and she no longer knew any of us. I saw her in February and said goodbye, knowing it was likely the last time I would see her on this side of heaven. If I’m completely honest, I haven’t consciously grieved her death, because I feel like she is probably so much happier now. I will miss getting to see her when I visit Florida, but I wouldn’t wish her back here.

I know that her loss feels much heavier for those who saw her often though, and once again I wasn’t there for those I love. Last weekend as I spoke with my mom’s parents, I caught myself wondering how much longer we will have them. I pray they both have years left ahead of them, but there is no guarantee for them or any of us. I realized that while I got to say goodbye to Grandma D, I have no promise that I will hug any of the rest of my family again.

I’m sorry if this post has gotten a bit morbid, but this thought progression brought me to an important realization… I never counted the cost for moving to Ireland. I was so excited about the move, and so full of hope for what was waiting for me on this side of the ocean, that I never really allowed myself to think fully about what it would cost.

I knew I would miss people – that’s a given with any long distance move, whether across a state, country, or ocean. I even knew that life would continue on both side of the ocean, and that the lives in the States would move forward without me. What I didn’t count on was how difficult it would be to celebrate or share sorrows with people via Facebook, and what celebrating or grieving from the outside looking in would cost.

This is where knowing the real reason God brought me here would be helpful. In looking at things I feel I’m missing out on, or feeling like I have abandoned friends, it would be encouraging to have a reason. Something deep in me wants to justify my continuing time here.

I’m cooking for people, and that’s great, but could be done by many people. I’m trying to work on a book, but that could be done somewhere cheaper. As someone who lives on the generosity of others who believe in my ministry, I feel like I should be able to point to a specific ministry I’m doing here that justifies the increased costs of living in Ireland.

All of these things together have brought me to a place of near desperation to understand what it is that God called me here for. If I could just point to something concrete, have an item for show-and-tell, so to speak, would that make it easier to count the cost?

So, for the past few days, I have been asking God what it looks like to count the cost. Today, I feel like I received an answer, but I think it is one that will take some time to unpack and fully accept and walk out.

For one thing, the verse that talks about counting the cost falls within a context that is pretty tough to swallow. Luke 14:26-30 says:
“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother, and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, saying ‘This man began to build and was able to finish.’”

It seems rather counter to the character of the God I know to insist on hatred, but even if I understand that to mean being far more committed to following God than loving my family and friends, that’s a tall order. Can I count that cost and be willing to miss out on all the life that is happening without me?

This is not the first time I’ve spent an extended time away from the States, and I think one of my worst fears is leaving here like I left Central Asia. I knew God had called me to go back to the States, but after nearly 2 years I came home with zero concrete evidence that a single life had changed because of my presence there. In a church culture where ministry is so often defined by measurable results, it is easy to feel like the past thirteen years of my life have been wasted.

God tells me that is far from the truth, but will I trust His word? As I listened to God’s answer to what “counting the cost” looks like in my life, I realized that like so many of the questions I ask Him, the answer looks like trust.

“It looks like surrender. It looks like leaving your family, your friends, the “big moments”, your future, your reputation, your finances and everything else in my hands. For your family and friends it means continuing to trust me no matter when or if you see them again before heaven, no matter what big moments you miss out on. And it looks like entrusting me with all of that whether you ever see the whys or the results here. If in another year or more I ask you to move elsewhere, and as with Central Asia you have no concrete anything for show and tell to justify your time in Ireland, will you still trust me? If in 50 years I take you to heaven with no visible legacy to show for the time you spend on earth, having missed weddings and funerals, births and deaths along the way, will you still trust me when I say ‘well done, good and faithful servant’? Is my word enough for you to trust no matter what you see in your life? The honest ‘yes’ answer to those questions is what it looks like to count the cost and follow me.”

As I wrote those words in my journal it hit me that the same loving God Who will one day greet me with those words of approval is already speaking his love, approval and appreciation over me. If I look forward to hearing that sentence and know that I will have no doubt about their veracity once I am in His presence, why do I doubt when I hear His voice speaking a similar message today?

In my frantic search for something solid to justify my presence in Ireland, I have missed out on the only truly important thing. God brought me here, and He is proud of me. I don’t understand it, but thankfully, I don’t have to. I simply have to continue being obedient to the things I know, live up to the title of “good and faithful servant” while I’m here, and let Him worry about the reasons and results.

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4 thoughts on “Counting the Cost

  1. Lausanne says:

    Just be. In Him, that’s all you need to do. You may not ever know the “why”.

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  2. Rosann says:

    Sweet Steph — You have definitely heard from God about trust. That is huge, although walking in that truth each day is difficult, I know. I love what God is doing in your life. If God moves you around from country to country just so you can touch one life – just one – that is enough in the view of eternity. May the knowledge that He loves you and that He is proud of you remain in the forefront of you heart and bring you courage, joy, and peace.

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  3. Libby says:

    God reminded me of something these past few weeks that I think we too often forget because our U.S. culture places such an emphasis on “career goals” or “ministry goals.” I used to believe and practice more faithfully the idea that wherever I find myself, that is my calling at that time. Our primary purpose is to Love God and then Love our Neighbor. Our primary calling is to make disciples. Shifting my mindset back to this thinking over the past two weeks has made all of the difference. There might be something more specific or greater coming, but I need to be faithful first in just discipling those in my path every day and loving the Lord. It seems ordinary, but God often take the ordinary and makes it into the extraordinary. I realized I was feeling the pressure of our church culture and our society in general to have an epic calling to attach to this life transition. For right now though, my life is about following Jesus in Cibolo, TX regardless of how bland that may seem to others. – Libby

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  4. Mandy McCullough says:

    Thanks so much Stephanie for sharing your struggles and triumphs. It is encouraging to know I’m not the only one struggling with these issues. Praying for continued revelation and trust!
    -Mandy

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