Straight Paths: “This isn’t what I signed up for”

The year was 2004 and Dennis had just returned from a tour in Iraq as an Army National Guard platoon sergeant. Dennis and I attended a Saturday morning men’s Bible study together for a while. I looked forward to those Saturday mornings and I thank God for using those men to teach, challenge and inspire me, including Dennis.

Dennis always impressed me as being very deliberate and genuine, the type of person you could count on in a clutch; so I was always interested in what Dennis had to say. One morning our discussion was about how people turn to God to fix their lives, but later become disillusioned and desert when He doesn’t meet their expectations; when they realize they are still responsible and accountable. Dennis shared, “It reminds me of a situation in Iraq. I was forty-four years old but there were some other guys there too who had been around for a while; but a lot of the guys were young. One day we experienced incoming fire and there was a lot of shouting, but I heard this young fellow say, ‘This isn’t what I signed up for. I signed up for the college tuition; for the GI Benefits.’” Dennis continued, “I can’t remember if I said it directly to him or to the fellow right next to me; but I said, ‘This is exactly what you signed up for.’”

I’ve never forgotten what Dennis shared that Saturday morning. Dennis’ story reminds me of Jesus’ exhortation to the “great multitudes” that followed him: “…whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it… Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?… So likewise, whoever of you who does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:27-33)

I’m also reminded of the Biblical story about two brothers, James and John, who were apparently interested in the “fringe benefits”: “Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Him (Jesus) with her sons, kneeling down and asking something from Him…Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom… But Jesus answered and said, ‘You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?…whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave…just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many’”. (Matthew 20:17-28)

You might be asking, “What does this have to do with me? I’m not a Christian and I’m not planning on forsaking all to be Jesus’ disciple!” Well, there are some principles in life that are universal and inescapable. With every role, relationship and position there is a cup and a baptism; rights and responsibilities; sacrifices as well as fringe benefits. So I suppose the moral of this story is; before signing on the dotted line make sure you understand what you’re signing up for; sit down first and count the cost, and evaluate whether you have what it takes to finish it. Or according to Aesop’s fable, “The Two Frogs and the Well”, “Think twice before you leap”.

Loren Hardin is a social worker with Southern Ohio Medical Center – Hospice and can be reached at 740-356-2525 or [email protected]

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By Loren Hardin