As a boy, we would visit the San Diego area to see our grandparents once a year. One of the treats was going to the San Diego Zoo.

It roamed with animals of all shapes, colors, and ages. You could touch the giant tortoise that was over 100 years old.

But what fascinated me the most was what seemed mundane. It was the egg incubator.

In a large room, hens sat on nests of eggs waiting to hatch. One would begin trembling, and the guide would point out this is an egg about to hatch.

All eyes focused on the eggshell. Cracks formed. Then, something peeked out from the shell, cracking even more. It was a chick.

Then, the mother hen moved away as if to say, “ok, kid, you’re on your own!” I wondered why did it help the chick. It was fighting with all its might to get out of the shell. It seemed a slow and painful process.

That’s when the guide pointed out the reason. The hen was not hard-hearted or neglectful. As explained, the chick must struggle to get out of the shell to have enough strength to survive.

If it did not work hard, it did not live.

Nature teaches nothing of worth comes without cost.

Yet, humans, in their supposed higher intellect, refuse to see that.

Parents do science fair experiments so they will “be right.” (I remember a 7th-grade kid with a rocket engine that his engineer-father built.)

Medals hang around a kid’s neck who never practiced but showed up for the medal ceremony.

McDonald’s most remembered ad was “you can have it your way.” And people believed the lie.

People grow to expect life to make it easy for them. If we struggle with weight, we ask the doctor for a pill to take with chocolate cake. Don’t ask an employee to produce. He wants the car and the corner office when he’s 20. After all, don’t you love me?

Nothing in life that has value comes without a fight. A graduate degree can satisfy is because of the raw sweat that goes into it.

Last Christmas, after 40 years, I paid a considerable amount of money to have my thesis from my master’s degree bound. It reminds me of the trips to Abilene, TX, just to use a Hebrew typewriter. (Remember, this was pre-computer days when we chiseled on stone with flint!) It is not to impress others but to remind me of the late nights writing.

Nothing in life comes without cost. That is true of education, a contented marriage, or a spiritual life.

In 2 Samuel 24, the prophet tells the aging David, wearied by family problems and stricken due to arrogance, to build an altar on a threshing floor. The mound was owned by a man named Araunah.

David and his entourage show up at Araunah’s door and request to buy the threshing floor. Araunah must have been both fearful of turning down a king and overwhelmed that someone so powerful would want his property.

He offers it as a gift. Take it. It’s yours.

David refuses. He says:

No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” (2 Samuel 24:24)

That place became one of the most treasured spots on planet earth. It was where, in another generation, Solomon would build the temple.

What do you want in your life?

People want to know God. It takes a search, a diligent search. It combs through Bibles and struggles with meanings. It reflects and confronts in a way that, at times, is painful. The mirror that you see yourself in demands difficult changes.

Nothing in life comes without cost.

School is mandatory, but learning is optional. Knowledge is never absorbed, but the mind wrestles with it. It takes writing, clarifying, editing, erasing, and trying again. From multiplication tables to quadratic equations, it takes effort.

Nothing in life comes without cost.

Marriages are not made in heaven. They are hammered out on earth. It constantly sifts another’s needs and demands personal sacrifice for the good of all. Arguments and irritations are part of the vows, even though they are unspoken. To be content in marriage, you have to work at it.

Nothing in life comes without cost.

The jazz trumpeter W. C. Handy pegged it.

“Life is like a trumpet. If you don’t put anything into it, you don’t get anything out.”

Start by asking what you want out of life but throw away the self-help nonsense. The next question is, what do you plan to put into it?

Remember, nothing in life comes without cost.

Are you willing to pay that price?