Well, today’s the day. I had my taxes done last week, and today’s the day that thousands of dollars get withdrawn from my account because, even though I live near the poverty level, I owe thousands of dollars because of a killer self-employment tax.
When I came home from my accountant’s office last week, I sat down on the floor and held my head in my hands. Never have I worked so hard and had so little to show for it.
I started doing the math on my life. Last year, between speaking engagements, being the author-in-residence, and serving at a hospital in Togo, I traveled to 22 states, 9 countries and 5 continents.
The math continued.
Number of nights I slept at home?
Number of weeks I’ve attended the same church?
Number of dates I’ve been on?
Amount I’ve contributed to a 401(k)?
Zero. In that math, my life literally added up to zero.
The effort and the sacrifices didn’t add up to anything. I felt like I had nothing to show for everything I’d done.
And it was true — if I looked at the math that way.
But there, sitting on the floor, I realized there were different variables for the equation that I needed to consider.
Because I turned my life upside down, I was able to raise thousands and thousands of dollars for the Invisible Girls’ trust fund. Because I did without, I was able to get hundreds of kids sponsored with Compassion International. Because I made travel a priority, I was able to minister to lots and lots of people across the country. Because I left my job (and took an 85% pay cut), I was able to live in Togo for three months and serve people there.
And this, I think, is what it means to follow Jesus. To realize that in this world, following Jesus means that the math will never add up. It will never make sense. It will never compete with what society says is important and noteworthy.
Was it worth it? I asked myself as I sat on the floor in my little apartment. If you had it to do over again, knowing what it would cost you and the sacrifices you would have to make, would you do it anyway?
In my heart, there was a resounding YES.
I don’t regret a single sacrifice.
On the balance sheets, to my accountant’s eyes, last year was a big zero.
But, I hope, on the register that counts more, what I gave up to obey Jesus adds up to invaluable, immeasurable gains.
Following Jesus means the math of my life does not add up.
And yet, seen through other eyes, it does. And it has been worth it all.