If I’m in the Valley of the Shadow of Death, how did I get there, anyway? Did someone stuff me in a sack and dump me over the side? Did I get chased into it? I’m walking through it, chances are I walked into it, maybe even with full knowledge of where I was headed. How do I get to be that ballsy? Perhaps I got there by first walking through the Valley of the Shadow of Looking Like a Fool. Sure, when confronted with the black and white choice of foolishness for Jesus or looking smart and on top of my crap, I’ll choose foolishness. But how often does that really come up? What if I choose to risk looking like a fool, not knowing whether the risk will turn into reality? It is one thing to choose foolishness when I know what I’m choosing it over. It is another to live my life in a way that is careless of the image of foolishness that could turn into a crisis at any point. What if the thing I’m doing that looks foolish right now leads to me losing my job next week? Or jeopardizing a friendship I care about deeply? If I make a decision now to risk my dignity for Christ, will I regret it next week?
What about the Valley of the Shadow of Poverty? Sure, I can theoretically decide that whenever life gives me the clear binary choice between buying a Mercedes or feeding orphans, I will feed orphans. How many of us will actually encounter a choice like that? What about the widow who gave her last cent? She didn’t know exactly what she might be sacrificing. When would she miss the money first? Food the next day? A medical emergency? There is no way to know where that money would have been needed, or whether the decision was life-threatening or simply cost a latte the next morning before she found more money. She just chose to risk the dangers of poverty, whatever they might be. Poverty with God over WHATEVER might be on the other side of the equation. It didn’t matter what it was.
If I’m trading my dignity, my money, the things I feel give me self worth, I want to know what I’m trading them for. I’ll sacrifice, but I want to be in control. Unfortunately, that’s not usually how it works. God glories in hiding the magnificent trade-off until after we’ve made the sacrifice.