Sacrifice. It is defined as “to surrender a possession as an offering.” And I've been thinking a lot about it lately with lent and especially with Easter just around the corner. I was always amazed at the sacrifices Jews were asked to make in the Old Testament for their sins but the story of Abraham and Isaac has always gotten to me. In short, Abraham and his wife were barren but they were promised by God that his descendants would outnumber the stars. They wait, and wait, and wait, and wait until Sarah becomes pregnant when she is close to 100 years old. And then one day God says something atrocious, “Take your only son whom you love up to the mountain and kill him as an offering/sacrifice.” WHAT?! Abraham trusts God and takes his son up to the mountain and as he is about to sacrifice him, God stops him and says, “Now I can see that you trust God and that you have not kept your only son from me.” Abraham then sees a male sheep caught in a bush and he sacrifices the sheep instead. And for generations the Jewish nation makes sacrifices on the alter until the ultimate sacrifice was made hundreds of years later when God sacrifices his only son whom he loves on a hilltop to atone for our sins and the veil is torn and sacrifices don’t have to be made on the alter anymore because of this ultimate sacrifice. But that isn't the end of the sacrificing altogether. Sacrifice is part of love. Good relationships involve sacrifice, surrendering something we hold dear to honor another. Today our sacrifices look different than they did in the Old Testament, but it doesn't mean that they are any easier to give. What do they look like today? Let me give you an analogy…
I’m playing on a beach. It is a sunny day & I decide to get into the water. I am having a blast and life is good, but within an instant a storm rolls in. Before I can get to shore, it starts pouring, and the waves get bigger and the under tow takes me farther out. The shore and the memory of the good times that were just had gets farther and farther away until I can no longer see them. I am now alone with no protection, out in the middle of open water while a storm rages around me. I am shocked, I am scared, I am helpless, and I am making little progress, just keeping my head above the water. It is taking all the strength I have just to stay afloat. I have no idea how far out I am, if I will survive this, or if I will ever see the shore again. I am now so exhausted, I have been fighting to survive every way I know how until… I give up. I relax my body and slowly start to sink. I think to myself, “This is it… this is how I am going to die.” I close my eyes and am surprised at how much peace I have. In fact, the storm is still raging but it now holds no power over me. I have not gotten rid of the storm but I have been freed from fighting against it.
This is my analogy for my life since Quinn. Life was good, but in an instant it changed and I have been fighting ever since to stay strong, to stay afloat, to figure out the whys, to understand God and it is exhausting! But the last week has been different. In a sense I've stopped fighting it. I've daily made the decision to quit carrying this burden and to lay it down. I have taken my hopes and my dreams for the way that life is supposed to be and I have chosen to daily lay them down on the metaphorical alter as a sacrifice to God. This whole time I thought that if I gave up fighting against this, if I gave up asking why, then I would just fall into nothingness and I would be giving up on life. But that is the lie the world tells us. The norm in our culture is to sacrifice whatever we have to get what we want. The way of true sanctification is to sacrifice everything we want because of what we already have in Christ. In fact I am starting to believe that we have it all wrong. That taking that strong grip we have on how we think life is supposed to be, loosening the grip, and letting it go lifting our now open hands to heaven is not the end of our hopes and dreams but it is only the beginning. It is the place where we are open God’s hopes and dreams for us and they are so much more than our own, and what’s even more amazing is we are freed from the constant treading of water to try to keep those dreams afloat. And the Bible tells us so:
1 Corinthians 15:36 “You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies.”
John 12:24 “”Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls onto the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies it bears much fruit.”
Matthew 16: 24-25 “If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
Romans 8:13 “If by the spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”
I have discovered through all of these verses that the secret to truly living is dying. Daily dying to my self, taking those hopes and dreams I have for my life and laying them down on the metaphorical alter as a sacrifice for the God who gave his son as an ultimate sacrifice so that I would know that he loves me and has hopes and dreams for me that are better than my own. Some days I pray that God would provide a lamb, like he did for Abraham, and that not all of my hopes and dreams would die. Are any of us where we thought we would be in life? Are any of our plans going exactly how we imagined? This is life as we know it and the sooner we quit treading to keep all our dreams afloat the sooner we will be free to truly live.
**I dedicate this post to my cousin and friend Natalie Kuns who is being baptized this weekend on Easter Sunday. May the act of going under water, leaving your old self behind & buried and coming up as a new creation in Christ be something we all try to emulate daily.***