In the back wood hollers of Eastern Kentucky there lived a man named Hoge (pronounced Ho-ge). He grew up with two brothers in a little town called Irvine, but he always wanted to see more of the world and he loved meeting new people.
By the time he was 17, he was ready to see the world. He wanted more than anything to be a Marine. World War II was in full swing, and his father knew that the Marines were sent to the frontlines of battle and that was the last place he wanted his son. So this wise father recommended the Navy medical core – the men who took care of the Marines.
So as soon as he could enter the Navy (going as far as to forge his documents so he could enter a year early), Hoge did. All of his experiences of the war were underwritten with the grace and miraculous providence of God. Time and again his life was saved – including literally watching a German submarine torpedo shoot directly under his boat missing his and exploding another boat.
After the battle of Iwo Jima he visited the island, and walked the sandy beaches that had been soaked with the blood of young soldiers, those for whom freedom cost them their lives.
Maybe it was the realization of how many had sacrificed their lives in the war. Whatever it was, in that moment he felt a presence that was unlike anything he had ever felt, and he fell to his knees. He recognized the Spirit of God inviting him into a greater surrender and sacrifice.
The only thing he could say was, “I’ll go anywhere, do anything, at any cost for your glory, God.” He thought he was living a mission of a lifetime until that day on Iwo Jima where he surrendered anew to God’s call.
My grandfather kept living this motto every day of his life. First he thought he would go into politics and change culture that way. However, no matter what he did, God kept bring him back to preaching and pastoring. He was too authentic and real to be a politician. He was best at loving people and talking about Jesus.
The words “at any cost” always impacted me as a kid when I heard him tell this story. They felt extreme, maybe too much for one person to fully digest much less a child. But they were words that always stuck with me and ones that I wanted to define my life.
A life on mission is life that costs you something. Really anything worth doing is going to cost you something. Sometimes this “life on mission” does not look like going overseas and living in a foreign country. Many times – I would even venture to say every time – a life on mission calls us to step outside our comfort zone in whatever context we find ourselves in.
My grandfather took a natural interest in people and their stories. How many times have you asked your server at a restaurant what their full name was and where they were from? Would that be out of your comfort zone? My grandfather, if he didn’t already know the server, would always find out the answers to these questions. He was always curious about people their stories.
No, a life on mission does not mean that you try to a “win a soul for Jesus” at every turn. It means that you are open your eyes to the reality of others around you and you step into their lives. It means that you cultivate curiosity about other people. It means that you are willing to shut your mouth and open your door to the lonely, the poor, the needy and your neighbor – maybe your neighbor is all of those things.
The cost of living on mission might mean that you do move overseas. Or it might mean that you open your door to your lonely neighbor and offer them dinner and a conversation and listen to their story. When you are willing to count the cost and pay the price you will receive a story you could have never written for yourself.
My grandfather had a full life. It was not perfectly well planned or even well executed all the time, but he was convinced since that day on the beach that the cost of following Jesus was worth it. Obedience to Jesus was worth the cost. It’s in the moments where we are fully aware of the cost that we more fully identify with the cost Jesus paid for us. This is freedom. This is a life worth living.