What You Take Takes You

by | Oct 10, 2023

In my memoir, A Road of Unimagined Adventure, I recount a life-altering conversation with author and missionary Norman Grubb. For one hour Dr. Grubb counseled me—60 minutes that influenced me for the rest of my life.

This would be the only time I talked with Dr. Grubb. He was seventy-seven years old; I was twenty-four, recently called to the ministry. 

I call my hour with Dr. Grubb “strategic discipleship.” Sometimes less is more—a passing comment; a simple kindness; unsolicited advice; timely generosity. God uses very little to change so much. My petit encounter, packaged in the quiet corner of a restaurant in downtown Mansfield, Ohio, was one of those times.

I listened to him. I tattooed his words on my heart as I sensed the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, speaking through him. 

That day God planted two foundational truths in me, two “Big Words”—as I call them in my book—that continue to shape my thinking and attitudes. You can read about the first truth, how I look at the church—all churches—in chapter two (“God, Baseball, Boy Scouts”) of the memoir.

Dr. Grubb summarized the second truth in five words: “What you take, takes you.” A pithy aphorism that sticks in your soul. I took it in my mind, and it took me in my heart. I’ve quoted those words to others, especially new believers, hundreds of times since. I’ve quoted them to myself thousands of times.

A few words given in a brief meeting. I took them, and they have taken me. “What you take, takes you.” You become your commitments, so don’t make rash commitments. Little thoughts, alliances, and attitudes over time magnify, multiply, consume.

What we worship—and we all worship something—we become. What we love, for good or bad, transforms us. God judged Israel harshly because they “consecrated themselves to the thing of shame, and became detestable like the thing they loved.” (Hosea 9:10b) That’s a sobering warning. The battle of the mind is the battle for the soul.

Psalm 115:4-7, repeated in Psalm 135:15-18, says it well:

Their [the nations] idols are silver and gold,

The work of human hands.

They have mouths, but do not speak;

Eyes, but do not hear;

Noses, but do not smell.

They have hands, but do not feel;

Feet but do not walk;

And they do not make a sound in their throat.

Those who make them become like them;

So do all who trust in them.

“What you take, takes you.”

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