By Julie Rhodes

I was talking to a friend last night. He is an actor. He is serious about his girlfriend and is thinking about marriage and kids. He was asking me my thoughts — when should all this unfold? “There’s no perfect time to get married and no perfect time to have kids,” I heard myself saying, and I think it’s probably true. I think what is particularly true about it is that there is no time in our lives where marriage and kids will not involve real sacrifice. They don’t fit into a cozy lifestyle like a labradoodle or new Zumba regimen. Other things must succumb.

For the Christian, it gets even WORSE.

There is a lot of talk in Scripture about losing our lives — for Christ’s sake (Matt. 16:25), in picking up our cross (Luke 9:23), in becoming living sacrifices (Rom. 12:1). Jesus even speaks hyperbolically about “hating your father and mother” compared to your allegiance to him (Luke 14:26). If marriage and kids asks for major sacrifice in ordinary life, the call of Jesus in a disciple’s life seems astronomical. He asks, very simply and very elegantly, for all of it.

I think it’s important to acknowledge how much this weighs. This weighs as much as your house, as much as you car, as much as your body. It’s also a temporal demand; it’s longer than your waking hours, longer than the timeline of your iCal, longer than your lifespan. It’s heavy and it’s lengthy. And this sometimes seems just a teensy bit excessive at best, and downright maniacal at worst. And the awful thing is, it’s a real demand. It’s not a high ideal that abstractly calls us, on a theoretical level, to give our lives to God in a general way. God has given us real lives to really give back to him. How upsetting!

I bet you can think of something in your life it seems unreasonable for Him to ask you for. I can. He’s GIVEN this Something to me, after all. Why does he need it back? Why would he give it only to renege? Maybe God has given you a surprisingly successful career, or the renewed health of a child, or a romantic relationship you didn’t think was possible. These are real things. Things that put a stake in the ground and hold your tent down on windy days. They’re gifts, really, and you thank God for them constantly. Thank you, thank you, thank you! We thank him because they are real and vital somehow. We rarely thank God for expected blessings or ephemeral concepts we haven’t seen blossoming into beauty during Monday morning traffic. We thank God for things in our lives that are real. And it is precisely because these are real things that he asks us to give them back. They hold value, like gold-backed currency.

In his classic, terrifying book “The Cost of Discipleship”, Dietrich Bonheoffer says of Christ: “He wants to be the center, through him alone all things shall come to pass. He stands between us and God, and for that very reason he stands between us and all other men and things. He is the mediator, not only between God and man, but between man and man, between man and reality.”

Jesus wants to broker our reality. He wants to mediate between It All and us. He does this by giving us gifts, so that in our re-gifting them back to him, he can give us more and more of Himself. Once we surrender them, our gifts — our people, our stuff, our position — become the currency by which we gain more and more of Jesus. It’s our choice how much of him we really want. 

Now look, sometimes when I see books like “The Cost of Discipleship” sitting on my bedside table, I want to throw it under my bed and eat a row of Oreos. I clench my fists against Jesus, the greater gift. I don’t know why. Perhaps you do, too.

And so today, will you pray a prayer of surrender with me? Something like this, maybe:

Lord Jesus, Giver of Gifts,
Thank you, thank you, thank you. These are good gifts. Real gifts.
This thing I love. This person I adore.
Be my broker today between this good gift and me. Mediate between us.
I’m just going to leave it right here… and back away slowly.
Give me You, mostly.

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