This past Saturday was, thankfully, a rather unusual one for me. TKT and I left Foley at about 7:15am en route to St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Panama City, Florida (about 3 hours away) to attend the funeral of the Rev. Ray Wishart, a Vocational Deacon who was killed when his bicycle was struck by a tractor trailer on Monday. There really is no good way to get from Foley to Panama City. US98 runs a straight line between the two cities, but with approximately eleventy billion stop lights and 123 miles of beach traffic on a summer Saturday morning, that didn’t seem like the best route. Instead, we traveled nearly 50 miles (each way) out of our way to save probably an hour’s worth of driving. From the Baldwin Beach Express to Interstate 10, we got off onto US331 near Defuniak Spring in order to turn south toward the coast.
For what felt like 20 miles, we drove through a construction zone that actually and coincidentally made me think about this Sunday’s Gospel lesson. For miles upon miles we passed half-built bridges, over grown, almost complete road beds, and broken down silt-fence. Some areas had construction equipment parked nearby, while others seemed like they hadn’t been touched, or even thought about, for years. I quickly began to wonder if the great 331 highway expansion, presumably to create a new hurricane evacuation route, was the road construction equivalent of Jesus’ cost of discipleship rant.
“For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.'”
Like Federal road construction projects, the life of faith is a never ending journey toward a completed project. With fits and starts, we do our best to honor God’s grace in our lives by living lives worthy of the gospel. Jesus wonders if we have counted the cost, but like any life-long continuous improvement project, how can you really know? What if when you are trying to build that new bridge, the piling hits bedrock, or worse, an old, unmapped mine shaft? What if the landowner at mile marker 32 won’t give up her property without a fight? What if the demons of you past come back to haunt you with regularity? What if your newly maturing faith puts you at odds with your work or your family?
It is impossible to know the full cost of a project that won’t be finished in your lifetime, which is why we take these words from Jesus to by (hyper)parabolic. Knowing the full cost isn’t what Jesus is suggesting, but he would have us know that like any construction project, the cost will be high, and you better put aside some money for overages. Otherwise, when the hard times come, and they will, you might find yourself unable to finish the project.