Saturday, 21 December 2019

Half-Built Sidewalks

"To progress is always to begin, always to begin again."
(Martin Luther)

Recently my better half and I were at an appointment in a nearby city. We arrived a little early, and so to kill some time, went for a bit of a walk along a sidewalk adjacent to the meeting location. Not far into our walk, the sidewalk came to a sudden and abrupt end.

I suppose we could have carried on walking on the grass beyond the end of the sidewalk, as others obviously had previously done, but chose not to. We opted instead to turn around and go back the way we came, but not before snapping this picture, as it reminded us of these words Jesus once spoke.

Consider the cost …

Looking back over some of my life's events, I am reminded of how many times I got myself into an unfortunate  predicament that likely could have been avoided had I first spend a little more time considering the cost of every day decisions. Personal and business decisions, which if they had been thought through a little better ahead of time, could have saved tens of thousands of dollars and possibly created an earlier retirement. Unnecessary and frequent job changes, residence changes, vehicle changes, expensive toys; to mention but a few. Each in their own way, cost huge dollars, some of which I am still paying for with interest.

Faith can be like that too. Though we may have come to the faith many years ago, sometimes it seems like we're still making decisions that keep us on a diet of spiritual pablum instead of meat and potatoes. As Hebrews 5:12 says, "In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food!" Perhaps our Christian walks could have been a little more mature by now had we made a few different decisions along the faith journey. Sometimes it seems like we have left the proverbial tower (or sidewalk) only half-built. However, we mustn't let that get us down; our stories aren't over yet and thankfully God is not finished with us yet. Besides, ultimately He is the architect and builder of the sidewalk; we aren't. Thankfully our faith allows, and even encourages us, to begin again.

If anyone comes to me …

Jesus said, "And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:27). What is this cross that we are called to carry? Is it the same for both you and me? Are we really carrying it, or only fooling ourselves? Are we really Jesus' disciples? Do we need to hit the restart button? (At the risk of digressing into another whole topic, which is probably better left for another post, Jesus' parable of the unmerciful servant suddenly also comes to mind.)

Before we can consider the cost of discipleship we need to understand what discipleship is. I cannot help but think that what Jesus was referring to in the previous verse is a radical decision made by you and me that ultimately involves the complete denial of our own selves. Could it be that confessing Christ is only half the cost, much like leaving the sidewalk only half-built? Is perhaps self denial the other half? Part of considering the cost is acknowledging that, by accepting Christ, we have given Him the full right to our lives. It is no longer a matter of what you and I want, but of what Christ wants. This doesn't mean that we cannot enjoy life's pleasures, but rather being fully in tune with what Jesus wants from and through us, is the greater goal and priority and cost.

Taken one step further, a condemned criminal was required to carry their own cross, symbolic perhaps, of the fact that they would not be coming back. Likewise, if I carry my own cross, I am saying to the world that I too won't be coming back; the old me is gone, the new me now has his existence tightly woven into Jesus. It is God's will that now governs my life, and not my own will or desires. Whatever my previous desires once were I've laid at the foot of the cross.

The Half-Built Sidewalk …

Am I there yet? In spirit, hopefully yes. In the flesh, not even close! Some days I feel more like a pseudo-disciple at best than the real disciple that Jesus would have me to be. While my faith-walk is sometimes on a relatively smooth sidewalk, that sidewalk often seems shorter than it should be as it unexpectedly seems to lead to nowhere. In fact, sometimes it too seems only half-built as I've often fallen off the sidewalk and wallowed in the dirt on the other end. God have mercy!

Maybe that's just how God designed this thing called life. Maybe half-built sidewalks of faith are part of His perfect plan. After all, if life were one smooth and nicely paved sidewalk from start to end, without some dirt here and there, how would we ever learn to trust Jesus? If the sidewalk didn't appear to come to a sudden and abrupt end now and then, would we even come to the realisation that we desperately need a Saviour? I wonder.

I love what Paul says in Philippians 1:6, "I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus" (emphasis mine).

Yes, our faith walks sometimes do seem like half-built sidewalks, but the good news is, God doesn't intend to leave them that way. He has another proverbial concrete truck just around the corner ready to bring to completion that good work, that sidewalk, that He already began in you. Praise God that we can rest in that.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing my humble musing. Peace and blessings, my friends.

God is good 😊

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