I suppose I could have taken the weather yesterday as sign of things to come but I didn’t. April in south Arkansas is notorious for producing powerful storms that can generate straight line winds, devastating hail, and ferocious tornados. As I unlocked the front door at work I stopped for a moment, looked up at the clouds, and drew in the sticky humid morning air and prayed we wouldn’t see a tornado in our county. But that dark wet cement colored sky didn't once foreshadow the storm that was approaching in my own life.
By dinner time the sky opened up and the clouds slid apart effortlessly while the heavens emptied themselves of every drop of rain and hail they had been holding in trust. Our poor UPS driver was soaked when he arrived with my package from our accountant. I was anticipating the final tax paperwork and honestly was not worried as I opened up the plastic padded envelope. After all, hadn’t I already opened two of these and written a host of checks to cover the business expenses? In fact, I had spent the previous week crunching numbers and making plans for us to work our way out of the debt that selling our business at a loss had cost us. But I wasn’t expecting this. In my hand was another tax bill. A five figure tax bill. And I knew we couldn’t pay it. Suddenly, it felt like all the oxygen had been completely sucked from the room. I quickly added the figures in my head. Now we were facing almost six figures of debt from the sale of our business and we had already paid well over six figures in taxes, we were a far cry from our estimate.
All afternoon random thoughts kept going through my head, “God, didn’t I obey you? Didn’t I follow you? Didn’t I give up the thing that I was holding closer to my heart than you? I don’t understand.”
That night after Steve and I had talked through everything about the situation, for the thousandth time, we both still agreed that letting go of the thing that keeps you from God is always the right choice, regardless what it costs you. Our business, no matter how well meaning, no matter how special, no matter how important to us or our community absolutely consumed our lives. It dominated every aspect of our time, our energy, our money, and our emotions. All of our resources were invested in it.
And God is pretty clear about his feelings when it comes to that kind of thing.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Matthew 22:37
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” Matthew 6:24
Two years ago when God pulled those selfish scales off my eyes and allowed me to see how I was living it was devastating. Far more devastating than learning I now have a financial debt that wasn’t expected. Of course, we were hoping that selling would allow us to break even. Don’t we all hope for the best case scenario in every situation? But the truth is that making decisions based on following the Master doesn’t guarantee me or you an easy path. We always want to follow Jesus as long as it doesn’t cost us anything. But friends, is it real love if it doesn’t cost you something? If all we do is show up in nice clothes on Sunday morning, give our tithe, and sing in the choir can we count that as loss?
I’m choosing to share our experience because I think too often in our Christian lives we gloss over the difficulties we encounter while following God. Then when we falter, fall, or fail we end up defeated because we don’t realize that walking with him isn’t supposed to be easy. Friend, please be ready. Your life with him will be gritty, messy, and most likely chaotically filthy. There’s going to be painful surprises and struggles you cannot anticipate. You are going to get sick and tired of being the last woman standing in this upside down kingdom. And beware because the enemy of your heart is going to follow you around and whisper with every step that this God you keep choosing, the one you keep putting first above all things, the one you believe is coming back for you, “He never really loved you at all.”
But here’s the good news dear ones. It’s worth it. Letting go of all the crap that’s holding you back from Jesus is absolutely, tee totally worth it. I would do it again in a second. If someone knocked on my door and offered to make me completely debt free right now if I would go back into the business I left I would kick them off my front porch. (sorry Dave Ramsey) There is nothing in this world that I want more than to be in perfect fellowship with God. There is abiding peace there. There is joy unending there. There is unconditional love in the presence of the Father with no distractions from a discontented heart.
So if your path with Jesus is rocky right now that’s okay. That’s normal. You just come eat lunch with me. But you better bring your own, because we won’t be eating out.