Was it worth it?
Answering that question has been a frequent internal reflection when looking back at my pivotal life choices.
Sometimes the answer is joyfully easy.
Though it has always challenged my self-centeredness and stretched my willingness to sacrifice and give, the 35 years of life with my amazing bride, Dianne, has made me a much happier and better man. Worth it!
No matter the busyness and weariness that came when our children were little or how challenging and painful watching them face their own adult struggles, none of that could ever lessen the daily joy they are to me. Worth it!
Growing up with four siblings was sometimes chaotic and often annoying because I was forced to share stuff I wanted all to myself. But I now have four friends bound by blood who for a lifetime have my back. Worth it!
The list can go on. Forgiving and reconciling strained relationships; giving to causes that make a difference; overcoming fears to try something new; putting in time and energy to create great friendships–so worth it!
But the flip side of that coin is agonizingly painful.
- The decisions when I compromised who I was and what I believed for short-term pleasure or escape. Not worth it!
- Days I wasted in vain pursuits built more on the values of the culture around me than the Kingdom within me. Not worth it!
- Moments when I exalted things over people, tasks over relationships, money over meaning, the urgent over the essential. Not worth it!
- Those situations where I valued being accepted and fitting in over being authentic and standing out. Not worth it!
It happens too often. The temporal and temporary crowding out the lasting and lovely. The banal and insignificant dominating the use of my time and resources while people who simply need a touch of kindness or word of encouragement are stuck on the waiting list. So not worth it.
It really is about priorities, perspective and passion. What is truly important to me? Am I in line with my life trajectory or taking the road of least resistance? What is guiding me right now, default demands or deeper desires?
Will the choices I am making right now pass the “worth it” test later?
Having been raised in church all of my life, I can’t even tally the number of times I have heard Biblical, musical or theological expressions stating that Jesus is “worthy”. It’s a word used so often as to be a central theme of Scripture and sacred obsession in worship.
Only recently though I understood that this special term is more accurately translated “worth it”. Jesus is “worth it”.
Jesus addressed this real meaning in two of His simple stories we now call Kingdom Parables.
In the first He described a fellow digging in another man’s field when he unearths a treasure of such value that he immediately hides the treasure, liquidates all his assets and uses the proceeds to purchase the field so that he could lay valid claim to the treasure. The treasure was “worth it”.
A parallel tale is about a pearl merchant who finds a pearl of such great value that he sells his entire collection of pearls in order to have funds to buy this single gem. The pearl was “worth it”. (Matthew 13:44-46)
That same single-minded pursuit is required to understand, apprehend and fully engage all that Jesus is for us in our real world. Anything short leaves us with a watered-down and domesticated version of Christ and His Kingdom that will never tip the scales of “worth it” in your life.
But if you divest what you call treasure and sell that which serves as your pearls, then go full-on into all He is and all He wants for your life it will be so “worth it”! Nothing in this world can compare.
The eminently successful but thoroughly broken Paul of Tarsus made that exchange: “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage that I may gain Christ and be found in him…I want to know Christ.” (Philippians 3:7-11)
As a child in tiny churches filled with utterly simple but radically dedicated people I often heard the words of this gospel hymn:
I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold,
I’d rather have Him than riches untold.
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or land,
I’d rather be held by His nail-pierced hand.
Than to be the King of a vast domain,
Or be held in sins dread sway.
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This old world affords today.
It has taken a lifetime of decisions that were not worth it to come to a point of fully understanding that only He is.
- When I face temptation to take short-cut instead of remaining true to what He sees in me…
- When I stand at decision points that will determine my course and conduct for the foreseeable future…
- When the desire to find “relief” becomes greater than the passion to become “real”…
- When a relationship is on the verge of becoming subservient to positions or possessions…
At those life-defining moments I am passionate to ask these days, “Is HE worth it?”
I am also learning that when I put Jesus in His proper place as my priceless pearl and secret treasure that I more consistently make worthy choices in the daily stream of living.
The Psalmist knew the veracity and universality of this truth: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:25-26)
When I treat Jesus as “worthy”, so much more in my life becomes “worth it”.