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.
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?