The Grove – Sacrifice

My Chinese friend had just arrived back in China after her first trip to America, her first experience in a Western country.  She came to my home for a visit, as she had done many times before.  But there was something different about this time, as if she looked at me and my home with a whole new perspective.

In the middle of telling me all about her travels, she paused, looked at me for a moment, and then she said it.

You sacrifice a lot to come here for us.”

Her words caught me off guard.  I swallowed hard, blinking at the sudden wetness in my eyes.

I stammered to find a response.  Part of me felt I should brush off her praise.  What we do?  It’s no big deal.      

But to say that would deny the fact that her words felt like a balm.  Someone that I came here for acknowledged the price I pay to come.  I don’t know why I needed to hear those words, but I did.

It’s true.  I do sacrifice to come here, and not always willingly.  While I’ve grown to love the life we have here, there are days when I bemoan the sacrifices.  I grumble at the tiles falling off the bathroom walls, the tiny kitchen that feels three sizes too small, the freedom of a backyard my kids have never known.  I positively ache when my toddler tries to hug his grandparents through a computer screen.   I thought these sacrifices were supposed to get easier, not harder.

My friend’s words were a balm to the bit of grief that’s always there.

“Thank you,” I finally whispered to her.

In that moment, a realization sparked in me.  I can belittle the sacrifices I make, I can bemoan them, or I can bring them as an offering.

An offering to the One who made the ultimate sacrifice.  A sacrifice he struggled to make.  A sacrifice he prayed he wouldn’t have to make.  But he did.  In surrender he  sacrificed for the glory of the One who sent him and for the love of those he came for.

My friend didn’t fully understand until she knew the place from which I came.

I think it’s only when we walk through those pearly gates into the perfection of a sinless, tear-free, glory-filled world that we will actually know.  We will stand before the throne gasping in awe at the Father-Son’s divine trinity love, and we will say for the first time, with understanding,

You sacrificed a lot to come for us.”

yousacrificedalot

*****

Join me in raising an offering this Good Friday?  Let’s pour out our hearts, our words, our art on the prompt “Sacrifice.”  He doesn’t need fancy, remember?  He wants heartfelt and real.

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Photo Credit: Darwin Bell via Compfight cc

10 Comments

  1. Jennifer April 17, 2014

    When I began reflecting on sacrifice this week, my first thought was that the longer I have spent in China, the more some things which once felt to me like sacrifice, no longer matter as much to me. I recognize that I have simply adjusted to some of the things I simply do not have, and do not miss them in the same way I once did. My sense of what is most important has changed very much. Things in themselves, no longer feel like sacrifice to me. I think the challenge for me in this lies in relationships. In a weakening of friendships at home, because of simply not being there, not connecting as before more than anything else. Of not having people who simply want to spend time with me, not with any purpose other than simply being with. Of friends here who simply don’t seem to think resolving misunderstandings and resolving problems is important enough to pray about. Yet knowing despite that, that I am stronger than I ever was, and have grown very much through this time. I love the gift of people who choose to spend time with me, and people who will pray with me to seek God’s help to resolve the problems between us. I need to learn to let go of the things which are simply totally outside of my control, to accept the reality of problems which simply cannot be resolved, of peace that is impossible until both sides want it enough to do something about it. I need to learn to trust God in the challenging times, to walk with him, and allow him to do what he wants to do, and let go of what I think he should do. I need to sacrifice what I want, what I think is best, and accept the gift that he gives to me, the gift of all I need, the gift of his best.

  2. Danielle Wheeler April 17, 2014

    Jennifer, your comment reminds me of a time in my life when I was struggling to move on after a series of painful and difficult experiences in a relationship.   I desperately wanted healing and resolution.  And I only saw that happening if the person came to me with an apology.  Finally the Father showed me that I was to forgive as Jesus forgave, when “they know not what they do.”  It was only then that I was able to find peace.  Like you said, “Letting go of what I think God should do.”

    1. Jennifer April 18, 2014

      Thank you. Danielle. I think that probably does hit the nail on the head, however much I might not want to accept it. I think until they refused to pray with me this week I always had hope that peace and  reconciliation was possible in reality, if only I could find the right words so they could simply understand. Or the right words to even get them to listen to me.

  3. Malia April 18, 2014

    What a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing it, Danielle. I especially loved how you closed with our realization of what Jesus sacrificed when He left heaven for us. Someday, we will see the glory He gave up, and even now as I speculate, I shake my head in amazement. Why would He come here for us? It’s a lovely reminder of His incomparable love, especially on this Good Friday.

    (On a side note, the post I linked from At Home Abroad is not aligned with how sacrifice has been addressed here or earlier this week on the blog. I wrote it based only on the word itself, but if it casts a negative light on this discussion, you’re free to remove it. Sorry to come out of left field on that one.)

    1. Danielle Wheeler April 18, 2014

      That’s the beauty of a word prompt. You can take it in any direction!  Just read your post and wouldn’t dream of removing it.  So glad you offered that perspective and reminder.  Sacrifice rings hollow without love and obedience.

    2. Jennifer April 18, 2014

      Malia, I really like the balancing perspective that you bring through your post. To me it seems clear that unless sacrifice flows out of obedience to God, results from obedience to God, it really can lack both meaning and purpose. Our focus on sacrifice, on what we willingly choose to give up, to do what God has called us to do, can all too easily become our central focus, over and above, simply choosing to obey God in what he has called us to. What we ourselves do, what we ourselves choose to give up, can easily become more important, than the one who himself enables us to do what he calls us to do, as we walk in simple obedience to him and his call to us.

  4. Cecily Willard April 19, 2014

    Thanks, Danielle, for sharing this story.  How it does speak to my heart.  I don’t spend much time thinking about the sacrifices I make, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t wish for a Starbucks multiple times a year!  But I think I understand the feeling that was in your heart when your friend said, “You sacrificed a lot to come here for us.”

    During a very dark time in my journey here, when the project that I had been in loving labor with for a long time suddenly, in a moment, came crashing down to nothing, I felt lost.  I was on a walk with a friend and very briefly explained that I didn’t know what would happen next–whether I would stay or go.  Quite unexpectedly she said to me, “You are such an inspiration to me.  So, if you came here for no other reason except for me, that was enough.”  These words were the Lord’s healing balm to my heart when I felt so lost and discouraged and like an ultimate failure in spite of all the sacrifice.

  5. Polly April 20, 2014

    I remember watching “The Passion of the Christ” for the first time.  Sitting in a theater in my college town, my heart was broken in pieces like it hadn’t been before as my eyes saw the brutality of Your death played out before me.  I remember having to look away as You were being flogged, tears rolling down my cheeks.  It hurt to watch.  It hurt to realize You really endured that.  Screams and blood everywhere.  And as You carried Your cross to the place of Your execution, there was one moment when You fell, the heavy wooden beam landing on top of You.  Your mother ran over to help You up, but instead You held her face and looked into her eyes and said, “See Mother, I make all things new.”  You stood up, hugging the cross to Your body, and walked on.

    That was the moment I lost it.  What little emotional control I had before then was gone.  Though You may not have said those words on that particular day, there was no doubt in my mind that that’s what was bleeding out of Your heart, Jesus, and what propelled You to put one foot in front of the other until You were lying down on that cross being nailed into it.  The depth of Your love and passion was too overwhelming for me to try and hold myself together any longer.  And I wept for the horror and the beauty of it all.

    I read the other day that our English word sacrifice comes from Latin: sacer (sacred or holy) and facio (make or do).  In other words, “to make holy.”  “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21, ESV).

    One of the main Hebrew words for sacrifice is korban, the root of which means “to be or draw close to someone/something,” suggesting that the act of sacrificing brings one closer to the receiver of the sacrifice.  “That’s what Christ did definitively: suffered because of others’ sins, the Righteous One for the unrighteous ones.  He went through it all – was put to death and then made alive – to bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18, MSG).

    Jesus, Lamb of God, I know I will never be able to fully comprehend the extent of Your sacrifice this side of Heaven.  But a lack of understanding doesn’t keep me from being grateful.  So very grateful.  There are so many universe-altering things that Your life, death and resurrection accomplished: victory over sin and death, destruction of the works of the enemy, abundant life, justification, reconciliation, the removal of God’s wrath, our salvation and healing, just to name a few.

    But oh that You, my Jesus, would become infinitely more precious to me than the life You bring through Your wounds.  Giver of all good things, give to me Your very self, that I too may run and shout “I have seen the Lord!”

    “Were the whole realm of nature mine,
    That were an offering far too small.
    Love so amazing, so divine,
    Demands my soul, my life, my all.”

  6. Jennifer April 20, 2014

    Polly, Thank you for sharing this. The verse with which you finished is one which for much of my life has spoken deeply to me and challenged me deeply. In a sense it is my prayer today. How can I hold anything back? Think any price to big? It challenges me to respond …and to do what I cannot do, because he makes it possible.

    “Were the whole realm of nature mine,
    That were an offering far too small.
    Love so amazing, so divine,
    Demands my soul, my life, my all.”

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