the cost of a life on mission

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.

The Journey is the Destination

“The journey is the destination. The process you’re in is the goal. Success is never defined by the outcome but by the process.” Paul Young 

When I read this I feel kind of at a loss, like all I had worked so hard for was for nothing. You know that feeling? The one that makes you feel that deep sinking feeling of disappointment or maybe even anger. I’m a pretty task oriented person. I like knowing that I can get something done and then check it off the list. But when you’re in ministry, this is not so easy. 

Ministry life centers around people so if you don’t like people it’s a good chance that a career in ministry is NOT for you. For task oriented people like myself, ministry is not out of the question but issues arise in when I make people the task. Oh, how easy that is to do. 

Maybe you’re thinking, “How could you make people a task?” Maybe you’re even judging me; I don’t care. I guess I’m just honest. I think everyone has done this at some point in their lives whether they want to admit it or not. Maybe you’ve made your kids a task. At the end of the day you’ve fed them, bathed them, read all the books, and put them to bed but all the while you were stressed and moved them on from one thing to the other until you turned off the light and shut that door *cue deep breath*. Or maybe because you’re so busy with all the aforementioned things you lie down on the bed with a big sigh and pray that your husband doesn’t come in wanting to have sex because it would be another thing you would have to do just to get some time to yourself. 

Yea. I said it. 

I don’t want you to read that and feel condemned. These are examples from my life – you’re not alone. Life is tiring and sometimes it’s ok to take moments to ourselves. I do want to write that and make you think about where are the moments in the process of life that you’re actually authentically connecting to others. And what are the little moments of connection that you’re missing because you were too focused on achieving the end goal (whatever that is for you)? Whether people are your business or you just live with people this applies to you. 

Life is about connection to God and with people. When I have truly connected with someone the best in whatever context is usually when I have slowed down, invited them in or spent 2+ hours having coffee or eating a meal. Life is about the process not the end goal. 

As a “ministry person” my job is people. More specifically it’s to create space in my home and my heart and my family where people feel safe, safe to belong and then safe to believe. I follow Jesus and I believe He did the same thing. 

If you take Jesus’ approach to children, he never seemed to rush them off because he had better things to do. He said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14) A child can’t automatically grow up and be mature. As much as we can hurry them off to bed, we can’t hurry them through one developmental stage to the next. Neither did Jesus hurry his disciples through one teaching to the next in order to level up their maturity.

He walked them through a process of discipleship. He told them the most confusing advice instead, “Become like a child.” What the heck did that mean? It meant they couldn’t achieve the end goal either unless they learned to RECEIVE. They couldn’t achieve or earn the Kingdom he offered. They had to accept and receive the process.

How were they suppose to do that? How do we even begin to do that? It’s a PROCESS, a journey of changing our thinking. We will only mature in God as much as we learn to receive from God. The process of receiving never ends just like our maturity never reaches an end goal.

Where then do I need to become like a child? Where have stopped enjoying my relationship with Him and treated it as a task I needed to get over? Or where do I need to start to slow down and enjoy my relationships with my family and my community again just for the sake of enjoying? (If you can’t tell, I think in questions – anyone else an Enneagram 6?)

These questions come from a heart that longs to receive the freedom of the Holy Spirit instead of trying to earn it. Bob Hamp of Think Different Academy says, “You cannot produce through effort that which is designed to be released through surrender.” So my last question to you would be what destination do you need to surrender to begin to enjoy your journey again?