Last week we wrapped up the Bible study we'd been doing on Sacred Parenting--and the last session was on how parenting is all about sacrificial love, which teaches us what it is. A crucial step in the Christian faith, which is built on sacrifice. It was a great study, and in our discussion afterward, we touched on a lot of great aspects of the subject.
But what really struck me the most is the idea that our idea of sacrifices change over time. The author of the book used the example of a tired dad walking through the mall with his small daughter, who said, "Will you carry me, Daddy? My legs are tired." He could tell the dad was tired too, but sighed and picked up his little girl. Gary (the author) found himself longing for those days--his youngest was 12. That time of his life was over, and though it was exhausting at the time, he missed it.
How true is that, so often?
It made me think of when my babies were still babies. Rowyn especially would wake up every night. I'm talking, for four years. Every night, at some point or another, he would cry. Every night, I would have to tromp, exhausted, down those stairs to his room. I'd scoop him up. I'd ease down into the old, creaking rocking chair. He'd cuddle in. I'd close my eyes.
There were nights I was so tired that I fell asleep sitting up in that old wooden rocker (not the soft, plush kind with cushions, mind you--the wooden kind). There were nights when I cried along with him because I just needed sleep, and he wouldn't grant me that. There were nights when I seriously wondered if this kid would ever sleep through the night.
But now I think back on how many times God met me there in the hushed bedroom of my little boy, in the soft shadows of night. I remember how many times I crawled up into the lap of God, just as Rowyn crawled up into mine. I remember how many times I held him, praying him back to sleep...and then, after I saw his eyelids were firmly closed, I held him just a little longer--because I wasn't ready yet to put him back down, even though that was what my goal had been.
And I realize that those things that were a sacrifice--of our time, our energy, our very sanity--became a blessing. It wasn't that a blessing came from them, though certainly that happens sometimes. But it's the thing itself, that action, that act of sacrificing, that we miss when the season has passed by. We miss the time spent giving to another. We miss the act of giving of ourselves.
It doesn't stop the next sacrifice from hurting. It's supposed to hurt, to cost us something. That's why it's a sacrifice. It grows us, it stretches us, it makes us ache with it. But it's necessary. Because without sacrifice, what is our faith? If we don't give to others, why did Jesus give up everything for us?
There are times when I really, really don't feel up to fulfilling that obligation I agreed to. There are times when I really, really don't want to pause my work to make another cheese sandwich. There are times when I really, really don't think I have the strength to give up one more thing.
There are times when I don't want to sing to the Lord. When I don't want to worship. When I don't want to praise. Because it hurts.
That's when we bring the sacrifice of praise. Of money. Of time. Of energy.
And God meets us there. He takes our sacrifices, and He returns them to us filled up with love. So that, looking back, we realize that that obligation became the thing we looked forward to. That we love cooking for our families. That we had just as much without that money as we would have had with it. That through praising God, the empty places inside were filled up.
The sacrifices didn't just yield blessings. They are blessings.
What are you sacrificing today? For me, it's time. And I'm going to stop right now and praise Him for asking it of me. Knowing that the sacrifice is sweet.