My daughter Dannica is seven years old. Many people think she is older than that because she is quite tall for her age. In reality she is your typical little girl in many respects. She is loud, sassy and often thinks that directions given from her parents don’t necessarily apply to her. She is also funny, sweet, empathetic and a kind friend. As with any child, Dannica is frustrating one minute, wonderful the next. Apples and oranges. Sugar and spice. Mud and sparkles. Whirlwind and pleasant breeze. That’s Dannica.
Today after church she was playing with her friends as I chatted with some folks during coffee hour. I turned around to tell her something – no Dannica. Okay, they probably just went into the lounge. I looked in the lounge – no Dannica. Hmm. I looked in the kitchen – no Dannica. I asked some other moms if any of the kids had gone downstairs to the playroom, then went there to check – no Dannica. Okay, don’t panic, she’s here somewhere. Bathroom – no Dannica. Stairwell – no Dannica. Preschool wing, conference room, rector’s office – no Dannica. My heart was pounding at this point as I was literally running around the parish hall looking for my child. I ran for my husband who, being a vestry warden for the church, was assigned to count the offering from this week’s services. As I neared the door I saw the light on in the nursery. The door was open only a tiny crack. I opened it, peered in…and there sat my Dannica. There sat my life, my world, my everything, playing with little cars on the playmat. She had her back to the door, but when she heard it open she turned around. “Mommy!” she cried, a big smile spreading across her face. “Will you come play with me?” I rushed to her, dropped to my knees, grabbed her and held her close, tears streaming down my face. Relief isn’t a big enough word to describe how I felt in that moment.
In a span of ten minutes I had lost my child and found her again. In those ten minutes the world had stopped. Time had stood still. I was running but moving in slow motion. In those ten minutes, I died. My life came back only when my child came back.
Now imagine the story of Abraham. In the book of Genesis, God tested Abraham’s faith by telling him to sacrifice Isaac, his only son. You don’t have to be a parent to understand how Abraham must have felt upon hearing this command. For his part, however, Abraham was obedient, faithful and trusting. In fact, he never even questioned, argued or pleaded with God. He simply “…rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him.” (Genesis 22:3) By reading further, we know that Abraham had every intention of carrying out God’s command. In verse 9, we learn that “When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son.” (Genesis 22:9) Fortunately for Abraham, the act of being willing to sacrifice everything for God was enough to please Him. God sent an angel to intercede and to tell Abraham not to kill Isaac. (paraphrased from Genesis 22:11-12)
Abraham was willing to give up the one thing he loved most in the world in order to please God. Despite the gut-wrenching pain he must have been feeling, he was still obedient. Could you do that? Could you sacrifice your child if it meant showing God your complete and utter faithfulness to Him? If you don’t have children, how about your husband or wife? Or your best friend? I gotta be honest. For me the answer is no. I’m sure the answer is no for pretty much everyone. But does that mean I don’t love God if I’m not willing to do whatever it takes to please Him?
We Christians are obedient to God to a certain point. We give of our time, our talents and our money. We pray and we ask God to use us as a means of glorifying Him on the earth. When bad things happen, we try not to blame God, but rather lean on Him in love and support. We pat ourselves on the back for being “such good Christians”. But when the time comes to truly be tested, we back away. God can’t really be serious, right? He wouldn’t really ask me to give up (insert awesome thing here), right? Clearly there must be another way…right?
Here’s the good news, friends: we don’t have to sacrifice our loved ones in order to show obedience and faithfulness to God. You know why? Because God has done that which NONE of us is willing to do. God sacrificed His only Son so that we could have eternal life. Jesus was our ultimate gift. He came from Heaven to Earth in order to teach us about God and His love, to model for us the way God would have us live, and ultimately to pay for our sins upon the cross. Just think about that for a minute. Let that sink in. We would never in a million years be willing to sacrifice our children, but God did. And by doing so He saved us all. Is there any greater news in our world than this?
Does this mean that God will never test us or ask us to give up worldly goods? Absolutely not. We will all have times in our lives where God will ask much of us, perhaps more than we feel we can handle. He will take things away. He will expect a lot from us. And it won’t feel good. But these are the times when we must lean into God. By sacrificing worldly goods, we realize how much we truly rely on God for everything we are and everything we have. And by taking the focus away from the here and now, we see the everlasting. We see how our lives can have a positive impact on the world. We see God.
I lost my child for ten minutes and felt like I was dead. Abraham tied his son to a bundle of wood and probably felt the life draining from himself as he held the knife up to kill him. These things both pale in comparison to what God actually followed through with doing for us. He really did sacrifice his child, knowingly and willingly. Kinda makes you wanna rethink how you repay Him each day, huh?
I’m so thankful that I don’t need to make that ultimate sacrifice for God. I’m thankful that there is nothing I can do to make Him love me any more or any less. And I am incredibly thankful for the gift of Jesus. I know that the next time I am asked to sacrifice, it won’t be easy. But I also know I won’t have to do it alone.
Now I’m gonna go hug my kid and play whatever she wants to play.