As we’re working our way through constant shiftings in the seasons of life we look behind to see how far we’ve come but even more so we tend to dream about what’s still on the horizon. I’m not sure it’s that we’re dreamers or hope junkies, treasure seekers or helpless hopefuls but it seems as though there’s always an assessing of where we’re at and what we’re doing and a determining of if any of it even matters.
There are pro’s and con’s lists. There are boxes to check or X. There are conversations which happen as a mere excuse to have a second cup of coffee.
Of course, it all matters to varying degrees and it’s all worth it in the end, the goods and the bads, the struggles and the laughter but which are the things that we want to keep chasing, keep pouring into, keep giving our yes’s to, and which are the things that can be thought about less.
The thoughts of changes in life coming tend not to overwhelm me but exhilarate me. If you’ve read for any length of time you know that I love moving, I can handle adventure and we’ve said yes to a number of crazy things in our lives. Some have come to fruition and others haven’t. I call them our Isaac’s.
God told Abraham to sacrifice his own son. To march with him up the mountain and lay him on the altar. Crazy? Yes. But Abraham did it anyways. Saying yes to God even when it didn’t make sense. Even when it would cost him the safety of his own child.
But was Isaac ever actually sacrificed? No.
It wasn’t about the actual thing, it was about the place of the heart. Was Abraham willing to say yes to whatever it was that God asked of him? Yes. Did God have him go through with it? Nope.
So we can sit back and wonder at the why’s of all we’ve poured ourselves into. The phone calls and the tears and the nights wide awake in prayer. We can beg God to show us why He would put us through all of those things without ever bringing any of them about to a reality for us. But that’s hardly our place. Who are we to ask? Why do we need to know? What does it change?
All we know is that God told us to sacrifice. He asked if we were willing and we said yes. Just like Abraham did. But just like Abraham our sacrifices were never actually needed. They became our Isaac’s. The things we could point to when questioned as to whether we will truly listen, truly follow.
As we reflect on a new season to come I’ve been challenged to look at the things that matter most to me. Challenged to become introspective for just a few minutes and place onto paper the things I deem essential for my well being. My happiness, if you will. And I don’t mean the easy stuff. To say that Jesus is important is a no-brainer for me and to say that loving others is important flows off my tongue altogether too quickly. But what about the things that I worry about just a little bit, should they be taken away. Things I’d rather hold with my fist tightly clenched, thank you very much.
Things like comfort. Things like stability. Things like regular pay cheques and days off and quiet time to myself. What if those were sacrifices I was asked to make? Am I willing? What if the sacrifice becomes about giving up my need for silence some times and embracing things that I hate like small talk. What if those become necessary? And what if I have to give up some of my material possessions? Like the ones I really like. Not those old towels or chipped dishes but what if it was my computer? Or my favourite cardigan? Or the funds to plant an herb garden on the patio and barbecue burgers whenever we choose? What if sacrifice came in the form of giving up my need for cleanliness at all cost and my solid 8 hours of sleep?
What if sacrifice came in the form of tired and lack and noise. Am I ready?
Or do I have things that I’m locking the gate on? Things that I’m saying, “Lord, you can have all of me….except that over there. Or these pretty things right here. Those I’m going to keep behind the fence and you know there’s no trespassing beyond the fence, right? Those are mine. I earned them. I deserve them. I NEED them.”
What if my biggest sacrifice of all came in giving up control? In taking something on that I have no power over? In being unable to manipulate the situation the way I want it to go? What if it truly meant I had to press in to Christ because He was the only one that could possibly change the outcome, the circumstances, the heart. What if it meant I ran to Him before coming up with a fix it plan? Or I realized that all the action I could muster didn’t do a dang thing?
Then what? Am I ready for that?
I’ll be completely honest and say that I’m pretty happy in my suburban bubble. House, jobs, cars and all’a that. Kids that obey, most of the time, and when they don’t are still shapable enough to offer direction and discipline. Food in the fridge and more in the freezer and candles lit any old time and sometimes just because it’s Tuesday. Vegan shampoo and essential oils and products to make my hair do whatever I dang well please.
What if it cost all of that?
It’s pretty easy to sacrifice the things we deem luxury but incredibly hard to think about giving up the things we think are necessary. Financial stability, warmth, safety. When’s the last time we had to give those things up? Have we ever even considered it?
Timothy Keller, in his book Generous Justice, refers to a sermon preached by a young Scotsman in the early 19th century. This young preacher was very poignant in his description of how we must follow Jesus. He says,
Some of you pray night and day to be branches of the true Vine; you pray to be made all over in the image of Christ. If so, you must be like him in giving…”Though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor:…
He goes on to list many common objections by Christians,
Objection 1. “My money is my own.” Answer: Christ might have said, “My blood is my own, my life is my own”…then where should we have been?
Objection 2. “The poor are undeserving.” Answer: Christ might have said, “They are wicked rebels…shall I lay down my life for these? I will give to the good angels.” But no, he left the ninety-nine, and came after the lost. He gave his blood for the undeserving.
Objection 3. “The poor may abuse it.” Answer: Christ might have said the same; yea with far greater truth. Christ knew that thousands would trample his blood under their feet; that most would despise it; that many would make it an excuse for sinning more; yet he gave his own blood. Oh, my dear Christians! If you would be like Christ, give much, give often, give freely, to the vile and poor, the thankless and the undeserving.
As we look forward to the next season of our journey we’re asking these questions. Christ sacrificed his very life for us, are we only willing to sacrifice some of the luxuries? Christ sacrificed his life for us, are we only willing to say yes when it fits our middle-class mould of how we think the gospel should go forth? Christ bled for us, are we willing to give up some comfort? Some safety? Some control? Christ left the epitome of luxury to be despised and shamed for us, are we worried that our hands might get a little dirty or that it might be a bit awkward or that some of our toys might go missing?
Do we really long to live like Jesus? Because if we do, it’s going to cost us. It may very well wreck us. It may grow to things far beyond our grasp of control and press us into places that have us relying on Christ and Christ alone.
Are we willing? It seems kind of a beautiful place to be.