My nephew-in-law has worked hard renovating my old cottage for 8 weeks, running into his share of negative surprises. He’s ripped up a floor, built a new one, covered it with slate, laid hardwood in the kitchen, corrected a structural problem, made a hole for a decorative window, sanded and refinished wood floors and built a wall of bookshelves.
But by far his greatest challenge was the back stairway, 12 steps with two turns and two landings. It would have been simple if each step had had the same measurements, but no two were exactly alike in height or depth.
Every so often I’d come around the corner and find Drew just looking at the steps. “How’s it going?” I’d say.
“I’m thinking it through.”
When everything is “off” just a little, pondering the project is critical to its success. And Scripture says we’re to count the cost before every commitment, not just the ones that don’t look right to begin with. Drew’s “thinking it through” was exactly that.
Our remodeling has been like those 3” puzzles we used to play with as kids, 8 tiny, sliding square pieces and one space. As we slid the flat pieces up, down and sideways, the surface picture began to come together. It wouldn’t make sense till every piece was in the right spot.
Sometimes it was necessary to push a piece 2 spaces left, 1 down and 3 up before it found its proper place. And moving the last square into position necessitated sliding most of the others around to make a path for it. Drew tackled my house the same way, doing things in order but always preceded by careful planning.
Sadly, I lean toward slap-dash, the opposite of counting the cost. If I’d have built our stairway, the finished product would have looked like something out of Dr. Seuss. Good intentions minus thinking-it-through equal costly destruction later.
I wonder if God watches people like me putting incomplete ideas into place too soon and thinks, “You’d better stop and think first. How about measuring again? Oops, you forgot to count the cost.”
Most of the messes we get ourselves into are the result of not pondering, measuring, counting. For example, we end up with addictions because we don’t consider the end before we begin. A teen finds herself pregnant, because she didn’t reflect on that possibility. A business goes bankrupt because of over-borrowing.
Jesus was the one who cautioned us about counting the cost. When he said it, he was referencing the price of becoming his follower, which doesn’t come cheaply. It was extremely expensive to him to allow us to join him, and it can be costly to us as we do. He was urging us to think about that before we committed.
But just like Drew’s careful thinking about my complicated stairway, if we ponder our commitment to Christ and measure the cost, in the end our lives will square off well.
Jesus said, “Which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost?” (Luke14:28a)