I often let my kiddos watch a story on my phone while I have my quiet time in the mornings. It is either that or just dump a box of Lucky Charms on the floor and let nature take its course. The story on my phone route seems like the lesser of two evils.
During this time one morning the story was of Abraham and Isaac’s epic journey up the mountain and God’s unbelievable request of Abraham to sacrifice his own son. My daughter (four years old) listened and clicked to the next page of the story without as much as a word. Which was almost as unbelievable as the story she was listening to.
As I silently observed my daughter absorbing the story without flinching I thought of how lightly we take potential sacrifice. Experience is often the most adept teacher and before we are on the field it’s easy to downplay and minimize the struggles we might encounter. Hardships might even seem romantic. Pumping water from a well or trying new recipes that use local ingredients can sound like interesting adventures, but in reality temperatures can soar making a trip to the well exhausting and sometimes you just want mayonnaise you didn’t make from scratch. Each of you who has spent even a moment on the field has a different version of this experience.
It’s easy to nod our heads with a “Yeah, yeah, yeah…” mentality about the sacrifice it really takes to be present in our lives overseas. That attitude can only last so long. It really only endures until our flesh starts balking at all the things we don’t have or all the ways we are living on the edge of sacrifice.
Around here we often talk about the sacrifices of convenience or personal space we experience, but the reality is we sacrifice security, sanity, health, family time, and a litany of other things to go and reach beyond ourselves in foreign places.
Our sacrifices are much deeper than food and air conditioning. Our sacrifices are a small losing of parts of ourselves and we do so without the assurance we will ever get those things back. When we commit our lives to overseas work we are not unlike Father Abraham with dagger poised high and a tear streaming down.
The reality is some of us may actually be asked to give our all on this journey. It terrifies me to type those words and to think one of you reading might face the ultimate sacrifice. All I know to say is Scripture teaches us to endure with all joy and again and again never be afraid, this holds true no matter the cost. I pray you would embody those words in your daily life no matter what may come.
For the vast majority of us our time overseas will be somewhat of a mixed bag of small daily sacrifices. Again I invoke the Word to encourage you to count every inconvenience as joy and to believe God is making much of your day to day struggles. Sometimes the greatest thing we need is a flip in our perspective and a journal that recounts the blessings, regardless of how small, can be an excellent first step in changing how you see your life.
I recognize the mental toll living and loving people overseas can take on a mind. Anxiety and depression are common among those serving overseas, but it often gets swept under the rug or left to be dealt with during a worker’s time home. These things ought not be. There are necessary sacrifices and then there are sacrifices we need not make. Your mental health is precious and I encourage you to protect it in any way you can (FYI: many counselors provide Skype sessions).
The bottom line is the crazy wonderful lives we live are full of sacrifices, big and small, but they are our lives and our stories, and God is there in the wilderness with us providing a ram in the thicket again and again if only we have eyes to see.
What small daily sacrifices are a struggle for you these days?