The Unexpected Sacrifices

When I think of the word sacrifice, I picture many different things. I see Abraham with his knife raised obediently over his son. I can picture a long line of people waiting for a priest as he makes preparations to offer the next lamb on their behalf. I see Elijah who called down fire from heaven to consume a very wet altar.

Then, if I dig deeper, I think of God and the sacrifice he made for us by sending his son to die in our place. I think of Easter and a miraculously empty tomb. I’m reminded of communion cups and chunks of bread.

But if I look inward and make my definition of sacrifice more personal, I think of powerful sermons with equally powerful altar calls. I feel challenged to say no to worldly things and say yes to the disciplines of faith. I think of phrases like “lay it all down” and “all in” and “with everything.” I think of giving up coffee or Instagram for a month at a time in an effort to grow in my relationship with Jesus.

Those are just a few of the things that come to mind when I think about sacrifice.

The word sacrifice probably conjures up a lot of pictures and stories, moments and feelings for you as well.

For me, the word sacrifice took on a whole new meaning when we began our overseas journey. Our journey started with the process of selling things, giving stuff away, leaving friends, saying goodbye to family, letting go of stateside life, walking away from our house and beginning a whole new way of living.

We were working towards life in Africa and I just knew the sacrifice was going to be huge.

There would be changes in our lifestyle, bugs, snakes, different foods, sand, heat, humidity, new smells, interesting sights, culture shock, transition, danger. And life away from American comforts—that spelled sacrifice in bright, bold letters for this comfort-loving girl.

And it was. It is. Sacrifice is all of those things.

But I was prepared for those kinds of sacrifices.

I’d wrapped my brain around sacrificing perfectly blow-dried hair for humidity inspired, frizzy up-dos. I’d already come to terms with cooking from scratch, soaking my vegetables in bleach water, and washing my feet numerous times a day. I knew there would be no ice at restaurants or quick trips to Starbucks or even holidays with family. I knew those things and had my heart ready for those sacrifices.

Days without power or water? Yep.

Mosquitoes everywhere? Yep.

Lacking quality medical care? Yep.

Bars on windows and doors? Yep.

No automatic minivan at my disposal? Yep.

All of those expected sacrifices, and many others, had already crossed my mind as our new normal.

The clash arrived between the things I knew I would sacrifice and the things I was being forced to sacrifice. It was a clash that tipped my world and made me reconsider my willingness to live out the sacrifice. This new overseas journey was requiring me to truly let go. It was asking me to sacrifice for real in ways that I was unprepared to sacrifice.

This clash is the unexpected sacrifices. The things you can’t plan for or understand until you are walking through them. They are unexpected, earth-shaking and at times, overwhelming.

Things like:

Arriving on the field after years of full-time ministry in the states and then realizing quickly that “ministry” as we knew it has changed now that we live and work overseas. We can’t do things like we used to. Churches are different. Ministry is different. Styles are different. Plus being new to it all, needing more language and culture, and— realizing it will be years before “ministry” feels the same as it did just a few years ago. We unexpectedly sacrificed our experience and years in ministry for something completely new. We unexpectedly sacrificed our definition of ministry and are now in the process of allowing God to redefine it… sacrifice.

For those of us who love to talk and communicate, we find out how much speaking in our heart language plays a role in our daily life. We find out how long it takes to learn a language well enough to laugh, joke, teach, tell stories, or have fun in this new language. We realize that communicating like a two year old leaves a lot to be desired in our ability to get to know another adult. We hurt for lack of words and missed opportunities. The loss of communication skills is an unexpected sacrifice that tears me up every single day. I want to talk and communicate but I can’t. In fact, we are here to communicate and the mighty wall of language learning is quite high. My talkative personality is muted and stilted… sacrifice.

Sacrifice comes when Sunday after Sunday we attend church. Yet, it doesn’t really feel like church at all. The sermon is in multiple languages, the worship is to the beat of one drum, and the temperature is above hot… sacrifice.

I could write much more out for you, so many more unexpected ways we are called to sacrifice in this overseas life. I know you have a sweet pile of them in your heart that Jesus is speaking to right now; some you’ve given over, and some you are holding tightly to for many reasons.

All of those things add up to the sacrifice of our pride, our accomplishments, our desires, our plans, our hopes, our schedules, our abilities—all of it, laid down on the altar of God as a precious, valuable gift.

I’m learning to lay down my words, my personality, my needs, my wants, my wishes, my abilities and let them go. Freeing them to be used by God in His way, in His time and in His plan.

Freeing my heart to learn and grow and feel God in brand new ways.

Freeing my soul to soar as God intended, without the strain of my own agenda pulling me back.

I can let go, sacrifice and see God work deep inside my heart, both in the expected ways of overseas life and the very difficult, world-tilting unexpected ways this new life asks us to sacrifice.

What are some ways that you have been unexpectedly asked to sacrifice?

What is something that you are struggling to release to Him as a sacrifice?

18 Comments

  1. Andrea Johnson September 25, 2016

    Yep—-that is so spot on. It’s the unexpected things that sneak up and ambush the “me” that pretends? intends? to give it all to Jesus. Thanks for your honesty and may God surprise you with an unexpected joy this week….

    1. Jenilee September 26, 2016

      sneak up and ambush… that is so true! Thankfully, He sees our pretending, our intending… and our doing and living. He is patient, loving and merciful through the whole process, isn’t He?

  2. Lindsey September 25, 2016

    This week’s theme is something I have been really wrestling with, basically since we moved here 2 1/2 years ago. I am always trying to release things I desire and there are MANY days I cannot truthfully say I feel the sacrifice is worth it. I know that makes me a horrible M worker! Like you I was expecting the sacrifice of comforts, time with family, seasons etc. But the sacrifice of community and support has been the hardest to deal with and one I didn’t expect. Close relationships with family and friends was what gave me life and here there is very little of that. I didn’t expect to go through the pain of infertility and recurring miscarriages far away from any support other than my husband. It’s been very lonely here and I have tried to lean on the Father for all my needs in this area. I’m not always super successful though!

    1. Jenilee September 26, 2016

      Sometimes the road is pretty lonely. But YEAH for Velvet Ashes and technology! And for husbands who help carry that weight with us. But truly, we can lean on Him. I’m loving the new depths of dependence that I’m learning… how deep, how real our relationship with the Father can be. especially on the “bad M” days 😉 #truth

    2. T September 26, 2016

      Those are very, very hard, terrible things to go thru anywhere, Lindsey! I’m praying for you today!

  3. Hannah-May September 26, 2016

    Thanks Jennilee – can really relate to eveything you’ve said! I had no idea how much of my identity was tied up in who I was professionally until I came overseas and have had to start again with language, relationships etc. before ‘work’ looks anywhere close to what is familiar. I often wonder why God chooses this path for me, the vulnrability and failiures, miscommunication and (in my mind) ineffectiveness in terms of time and resources. And then I look back and see what He did (and is doing) through all that mess and I am humbled and excited as I see who I am serving. Of course the sacrfifice hits hard some days and, as I drink my tea made with care package teabags from England, I am comforted SO much by the fact J knows what it is to make a cross cultural leap and have everything turned upside down so I could be saved. The beauty of that sacrfice is amazing, and it doesn’t mean I have to grit my teeth and get through the sacrifices I’m making, it means I can walk them with one who knows.

    1. Jenilee September 26, 2016

      The beauty of that sacrifice IS absolutely amazing. I’m thankful that God chose to walk me through this process and, like you, untie my identity from things I never even realized were there and make it completely about Him. but hot tea from home sure helps, yes? 😉

  4. Danielle B. September 26, 2016

    Oh my. Unexpected sacrifice is my right now. We recently had to evacuate the place we’ve called home for four years.. Due to war. We had to leave home, ministry, friends and nearly all our possessions. It took so long to put down roots. To feel at home, to make our house a home. Now it’s all gone. I found out this morning that the door to our house has been broken down. All our things are being carried out. Stolen by those in our village. People we have lived among and served. This is a sacrifice I hadn’t anticipated. I knew we would leave everything when coming to the field, but to lose it all again? My heart is broken, but my hope is still in Jesus.

    1. Jenilee September 26, 2016

      oh, my heart is breaking with you… hugs from afar today and thankfulness that your family is safe but hurting for all you are going through. I am praying for peace in your heart. yes… our hope remains in Jesus.

    2. T September 26, 2016

      I am praying for you right now, Danielle B.!!! I am so sorry for what you are going thru!

    3. Karen Huber September 27, 2016

      Grieving with you, Danielle. May God give you comfort and heal your broken hearts.

    4. Stella September 27, 2016

      Wow so sorry to hear this but I know in the end it will be greater and somehow redeemed, praying grace, forgiveness and lots of seeing His hand upon you and yours as you walk this part of your journey.

  5. T September 26, 2016

    Just after reading the hard experiences in the comments above, I was praying that our collective hearts would not harden, but that we would go right to our Father and say what we need to say to Him when we are hurting…whether it is shouting or crying or just being silent. Anyway, I then went over to incourage.me to read the devotional there, and found a great post on that subject…about how God doesn’t tell us to “Pull yourself together!”, but invites us to come to him and he gently love us towards healing. Here is the post… http://www.incourage.me/2016/09/archive-come-undone-cant-pull-together.html

    1. Jenilee September 26, 2016

      Yes, I love the healing, faithful way God leads us in these things. Growing our roots stronger, deeper while loving us and helping us mend. Thanks for sharing that resource!

    2. M'Lynn September 28, 2016

      Thank you for sharing that article! I’ve been in a season where I hear myself saying “I just cannot deal with this!!!!” and then I hear the whisper through scripture “I will deal” (Zeph 3:19) and that’s been such a blessing to me. So I completely resonate with the statement that we don’t have to pull ourselves together in times of hardship and sacrifice. There’s some hard stuff shared here in these comments and I’m lifting up sisters today who are having their faith put to the test. I’m asking that they don’t bully themselves into thinking they have to pull themselves together….asking that they’ll fall on Jesus and his love and strength.

  6. Adelaide September 26, 2016

    Our time overseas ended with a lot of confusion: what sacrifices wet we being called to make? We had anticipated the lack of power and water, the language and cultural gap, but not our team’s expectations that we would do life the way they wanted, have the friends and worship with who they approved, have the family roles they expected and submit to their authority in every area including scripture without questioning. We quickly and painfully realized that these were not sacrifices God was calling us to make. Rather He called us to sacrifice the dream of serving overseas, our identity as international workers, having a job that feels meaningful, years of language learning that now feel useless, friendships that were just beginning. Really the biggest struggle in returning home has been letting go of these things. Life is so different than we expected, but we’re learning to trust Him even here living a “normal life” back in the US.

    1. Jenilee September 28, 2016

      Learning to trust Him… such a beautiful, valuable, necessary process. Learning to let go and live in Him. Thank you for sharing that!

    2. M'Lynn September 28, 2016

      There is such wisdom in stopping to ask and answer the BRAVE question “What sacrifices are we being called to make?”

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