I was never much of a clubber. In my late teens and early twenties, I liked going dancing with my friends on occasion, but my dancing was more entertaining than sexy so I didn't fit in at many venues. Plus, most of them were smoker friendly back then, and drinks cost a hefty fraction of my paycheck. (There weren't many people who wanted to buy a drink for the gal using coffee stirrers as glow sticks during the remix of Ben Folds Five's "Brick" - which, by the way, whose awful idea was that to create a club version of a tragic abortion song? )
Still, heading out with a small group of friends to bust loose on the dance floor usually promised a good time. I lived an hour from Canada, which was a huge draw for teens because the drinking age in this exotic foreign land was 19, as opposed to the U.S.'s 21. I'll be honest: I never took advantage of that fact.
But I did take advantage of how many clubs existed within walking distance of one another in downtown Windsor. You could hop from one to another, only paying a loonie or a toonie to get inside each one, bop about for a bit, judge the gathering as "not my crowd", and move onto the next. I even found a place that played White Stripes, Led Zeppelin, and indie artists that no one reading this remembers like Tahiti 80, and who didn't care that my clubwear was a pair of jeans and a t-shirt that said, "I like math."
I digress. My point was that every place had some kind of entry fee. Maybe they would waive it for things like "ladies night" or "dress like the '70s night" or "bring a canned good for the food pantry night" (I truly hope that last one is a thing), but it still existed. In places like Windsor, where the clubs were competing with their next door neighbors, the fee was lower than the places I visited in downtown Detroit who knew their nearest competition was several blocks over, a walk that would require interacting with fragrant steam emanating from manhole covers and sketchy dudes asking for money in one way or another.
The cover charge was a way to prove you wanted to be there. You were willing to part with some cash for the experience that awaited you within. I figured out fairly quickly which clubs were worth the loonies, the toonies, or the $10. (No further comment on how those currencies compared, since at one point the Canadian dollar was stronger than the U.S. dollar, ruining a lot of our jokes. I've learned.)
This may seem like an odd link, but bear with me. I see this principle in my journey with Christ. Each time I get to another level, He asks if I'm willing to pay the cover charge. Early on, it was pretty cheap. And it was good. But it got progressively more costly. Whereas at first, I might just have to get up 5 minutes earlier so I could have time to pray in the morning, I came to a place where I was giving up life goals in faith He would enhance them - or sometimes change them entirely, which was not what I wanted at the time but totally something I wanted in retrospect. But I've already talked a lot about that, which will save me a tangent.
This got me thinking: Has there been a cover charge I wasn't willing to pay? Because I've seen some of my loved ones stand at the door of an opportunity, looking down at their hand deciding if they want to pay or go home. Or go to a cheaper place. And in this vision - it's a tad cheesy, I admit, but incredibly poignant for me at this point in my life - God is holding His hand out asking if they are willing to explore and surrender their unforgiveness toward their ex. And, like the rich young ruler in the Gospels, they walk away in sorrow because they aren't willing to part with that.
So, again, I ask myself, has there been a cover charge I wasn't willing to pay? And I realize the answer is that there have been, but my Savior's relentless love has always sought me out and drawn the price from a very willing me. There were friendships I didn't want to let go of, and I clung to them; but then they didn't fit into the life I found myself moving toward, and they fell away. There were attitudes of judgment in my marriage, bitterness in my family, and competition in my relationships, and I gathered them tightly to myself because they felt so good in their badness. And then His love. His love. His wild, persistent love and the adventure that awaited me within loosened my grip.
Unlike with so many of those dank, carcinogenic clubs of old, I've never regretted paying a fee.
Have you refused to pay cover at some point? Here's the great news: He's still waiting with open hand, and the adventure is still ready just. for. you. Trust me: The return far outweighs the investment. But you need to hand it over to see what's next.