On a recent road trip with my youngest son, we listened to the audiobook of Corrie Ten Boom’s incredible WWII memoir, The Hiding Place. One of her stories triggered a memory in me and I pushed pause on the stereo to tell my boy a story of personal sacrifice that daily affects his own young life.
My grandmother was single most of her life. She raised her five children while teaching elementary school, and supplemented her income by giving piano lessons after school until it was time for dinner. She would then feed her family, clean the house, do the laundry, and prepare for a repeat the next day.
While attending the University of Arizona, my 19 year old father received a mission call to share the gospel of Christ for two years in the Scottish/Irish Mission. Though he had been working to save money to go, he needed further help. On her summer break, his mother had taken the two younger children and moved them from St. Johns, Arizona an hour away to Holbrook, where she worked as a hostess in a restaurant to earn the extra money needed. While there, she wore out and came down with Mononucleosis. She was in bed except during her shifts.
Dad’s grandparents were called upon to drive him to Salt Lake City, Utah for his training. They stopped in at Holbrook, so that he could say goodbye to his mother on her sickbed. One can only imagine the tender words and emotions of that moment, he having to leave her in such a state, and she watching him go and do what she had raised him to do.
Wiping my own tears, I asked my son “Do you think your grandfather would have dared come home early because he was homesick? Or missed a girlfriend? Or decided that facing the guaranteed rejection and fatigue of the mission field was too hard?” Not with that image of his mother’s sacrifice burned into his heart and mind.
Because of both of their offerings, our family has experienced continual ripples of faith, love for the Lord, and obedience. We have been sustained in obvious and subtle ways because they taught us--by example--how sacrifice has the power to call down blessings of heaven on our loved ones.
Matthew 6:33 urges us to “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.”
So how do we put God first? There are three times we can do it, when we give money, time, and heart.
Sacrificing Our Money:
Need we be reminded of the widow and her mite? Everyone can spare something, because there is always one who has less. Whether you choose to hand it to a panhandler on the median of a busy intersection, or donate online to humanitarian or other causes, we can seek to bless God’s children with our excess.
A quote that forever altered my view on the subject was C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity:
“There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them.”
The knowledge that our donation has given food, shelter, health, education, or comfort to someone in need, delivers a feeling of peace and contentment with what we have left. If we find we feel disgruntled, we probably would have done as well to retain the gift.
Sacrificing Our Time:
Do we feel sorry for ourselves because we’re slammed-busy? Well, rest assured that nearly everyone feels the same. It’s a planned part of our mortal experience. Too much to do forces us to choose, to prioritize. If we are not sacrificing our time to something greater than our own selfish desires, we are stunted in our growth. By heaving ourselves off of the couch and into activity that will bless others, we are refined and renewed far beyond what rest or recreation can produce. We also find that those dozens of tasks on our to-do list, somehow didn’t all qualify as top priorities.
Sacrificing Our Heart:
Otherwise known as “turning over our will,” this one might be hardest of all. It feels so unnatural. We have been given agency, to choose how we will spend our resources, our days, and our life’s energy. We have a choice to make. We can either stubbornly attempt to mold our own hearts, or we can turn them over to a loving Father in Heaven to see what He can do with them. We can trust that His vision is far broader for our benefit, than even our wildest dreams.
When we choose to keep our hearts as our own, we are actually damning the flow of blessings and progress that we are praying for. And that He is trying to send.
We may never be asked to sacrifice our son, as Abraham was asked, and as our Heavenly Father truly did with His own perfect Son.
But we may be asked
to teach a Sunday School lesson at the last minute.
Or bite our tongue when we want to deliver a lecture, rather than love.
Or break bread with someone who needs a meal and a friend,
The list of ways we may be asked to sacrifice is infinite and individual.
Can we agree that there are benefits and blessings to be had if we would quit resisting a sacrifice and instead graciously accept the gift?
The second half of the above scripture in Matthew 6 promises “…and all these things shall be added unto you.” That means more financial means, more time available, more desire to do God’s will and work.
And that constitutes a sacrifice?
Well, sign me up!
Delighted to be learning life’s lessons together.