When we first came to China, we could only find butter in a can. A CAN. A small, metal container containing some strange kind of yellowish substance. I remember thinking our lack of butter was a sacrifice that might be more than I could take.
When you think of sacrifice, maybe your mind jumps to something like canned butter. Or the lack of Diet Coke. Or, perhaps, you have been asked to walk a steep, tangled road where the sacrifice that was asked of you was more than you thought your heart could bear.
On November 17, 1944 such a story of sacrifice forever changed my family.
My dad’s older brother, Peter, was preparing to go to seminary when he was drafted for World War II. Everyone said he was a remarkable man: kind, gentle, strong. He was sent to Germany, and served as a medic in the U.S. Army.
On that day in 1944, my uncle Peter had been helping injured American soldiers in the middle of a battlefield in Germany . Suddenly he heard a cry for help, a moan of suffering nearby. He turned, scanning the area for the person behind that moan. It was a fallen German soldier. The enemy.
But, Uncle Peter knew the call on his life was not to be an America solider, but a soldier for the King. So, when he saw that man suffering, he ran over to him, to help bind up his wounds.
While he was doing so, a German sniper shot and killed my uncle Peter.
My uncle sacrificed his life so someone else – even someone wearing the enemy’s uniform – would have a chance to live.
When we think of sacrifice, sometimes we can only equate one word with it: loss. I’m slowly learning, however, that sacrifice can have quite another role in our lives.
Sometimes in living this overseas life we can fall into self-pity as we mentally compile our lists of sacrifices, some large and some small. No Dr. Pepper. No pediatrician that speaks English. No Little League. Cheese is so expensive. I don’t have a car. Homeschooling is hard. My family is so far away. There is nowhere to buy clothes — I will never fit these hips into Chinese pants!
We can throw a pity party. We can even run away to avoid them. We can play it safe, make safe choices, and choose not to venture down the road less traveled because it just might ask too much of us.
Or, we can learn to look for the flip side of sacrifice.
Our great God in his infinite mercy has a way of turning things upside down and inside out. He has a way of taking things we cannot imagine could ever be used for good, and weaving them into a magnificent masterpiece in our lives.
Does that mean sacrifice is easy? No, there is loss.
But, it does mean sewn into the very fabric of sacrifice is the promise of HOPE. The promise the sacrifice itself is not nearly the end of the story – and the Great Author has also written the following chapters.
I am slowly learning when I am asked to sacrifice something in my life, I want to do so with expectancy, even in the middle of the pain. I want to look for what our God is doing in me and through me because of it.
When I weep over the losses in my boys’ lives as they miss birthdays with grandparents or as they feel the sting of friends who leave this side of the world, I am reminded God is growing their character in ways I could never imagine. He is doing things in us.
When we wait in long lines of traffic, or at the local grocery store, He takes sacrifice and works patience into us.
When we sacrifice being able to communicate everything in our own language, He teaches us how to laugh at ourselves, how to be more compassionate with our students learning English. He is building humility and kindness into us.
When my heart aches to sit with my mom and dad over a cup of coffee and have a nice, long conversation, He reminds me all relationships built in Him are built to last. Through the sacrifice of leaving family, He is teaching me to have an eternal perspective. He is doing things in us.
I want to ask for more faith – to trust him that nothing is wasted if I give it to Him, that He is the ultimate Redeemer of all things, including any hard road I am asked to walk.
After all, He understands sacrifice.
He understands how it hurts. He understands what it costs. He understands the obedience required. He knows the end of the Story is worth the pain it will take to get there. He knew the joy set before Him was worth the agony of the cross. He understands sacrifice.
On that hill in Germany in 1944, my uncle sacrificed his life for someone wearing the enemy uniform.
How much more did our great Savior sacrifice for us, while we were yet sinners? He heard our cries for help, he saw our desperate need for a Savior, and willingly laid down his life…while we were still his enemies, still wearing the enemy uniform. He sacrificed his life so that we would have the chance to live.
We serve that God.
And He is worth any sacrifice we are asked to make.
Considering the two side of sacrifice, what loss have you experienced? What have you seen God do in you through sacrifice?