I was thinking about a specific Bible story I really have never liked. I have always cringed when I’ve thought about the story of Abraham and Isaac. I mean, I’ll be honest, one of my least favorite stories probably ever. I just couldn’t see why God would tell Abraham to sacrifice his son at the altar. Set his son on fire for God and let him burn to death. Not only is it murder…it’s stinking brutal murder. I kind of have always tried to figure it out and failed. I chalked it up to my inability to understand the things of God that seem cruel, and to possibly Abraham being a bit off kilter or misinterpreting something. I know… not the case, but it’s just never made much sense to me. For one thing, God is against murder. It’s one of the very vivid 10 commandments. Isaac was innocent. Why would he ask this?
For over a month, we have had a few readings at church. They are Biblical narratives written from the possible perspectives of the characters who were in the stories. Last Sunday, guess who it was? Yeah…Abraham.
The guy who was reading it, is a close friend of mine. He began reading the story we all know and well…I had yet to love. He told the typical parts of the story, but when it came to the part where he narrates the walk to where they would perform the sacrifice, something started to make sense. He read about the thoughts Abraham possibly could have had going through his mind. They were along the lines of, ” I don’t understand why God would ask this of me. He has done so much for me before. This is not even in accordance to God’s teachings, and God is unchanging. There has to be some reason for this I don’t yet understand. God promised that he would give me so numerous descendants that they would be as the sand. This promise has to somehow still stand.” Abraham’s faith that God was good and unchanging, led him to trust that somehow God was going to make sense of this grave request, and that there would be some sort of answer in it.
He spoke of how hard it would have been for Abraham to explain to his son that the reason they hadn’t brought a sacrificial lamb, was because the lamb would be Isaac. This doesn’t even approach the subject of how or if he told his wife. I’m imagining that wouldn’t have gone over very well either. So…you know how we we waited forever for a son? I’m going to the altar to sacrifice him tomorrow. Can you pass the rabbit stew and the bread? I’m famished! I imagine Sarah would have looked at him and said something along the lines of , “Old Man, you have done lost your pea picking mind! You will not! I will club you in the head if you dare try!” Okay, so I know it probably wouldn’t have been like that, but how on earth could you explain this to those around you? It’s always been interesting to me that that part of the story wasn’t included.
The narration approached the time where Abraham would have had to tell Isaac what was really going on, the narration expressed the terrible burden it would be to try explaining this to Isaac. It portrayed the pain of telling his son that this was the way it had to be. It talked about the obedience of Isaac to his father. That he would allow his father to tie him to the altar, with full knowledge that this would be an excruciating death. I mean… if this were me, it wouldn’t have been me willingly to just get up on that altar. I probably would have been involved in an altercation, because not only would it be terrifying, but I don’t know if I would have understood the requirement.
It was in this moment of the reading, where something finally hit me. Abraham’s obedience was an example to us that no matter how precious someone or something is to us, you cannot put it before God. We have to surrender to God, what we love the most, and accept His almighty wisdom even when we don’t understand it at all. Abraham was sacrificing his son. Something that God did for us. God sacrificed his son for us. His perfect son. He was not asking of Abraham, more than he was willing to do for us.
Isaac is an example to us in his obedience to his father. Just like Jesus, he had to trust his father and obey, even when he knew he was certain to face an excruciating death. He trusted his father and he surrendered himself as the lamb.
To all of our relief…God stops Abraham from lighting that altar on fire. I can’t even imagine how relieved Abraham and Isaac had to be! Whew Momma! Can you imagine the armpit rings of sweat on their robes? Old Spice couldn’t have helped that situation one bit! Uhg…the amount of agony they had to be in emotionally! Whoa… Thank goodness…His son would not have to die. Abraham and Isaac had passed the test. I do imagine when they reminisced years later over family dinner that this situation would resurface. Hey Dad, remember that time you took me into the woods and you were acting all weird and then you told me you were going to sacrifice me in a fire on the altar…? That was pretty stressful! I’m really glad that all worked out!
I feel a weird fondness toward this story now. In the last 7 years, I had my independence, many physical abilities, my pride, my hopes and dreams, all ripped from my white knuckled grasp. Injury after injury, and surgery after surgery, I watched them slip away. There was a time where I had no idea what I was supposed to do from here. I remember feeling very lost.
I had many conversations with my husband and our parents about my worries. I remember a particularly hard conversation I had with my Father in law, while my lumbar spine was unstable. I was looking at more surgery, I was sick and tired of the endless circle this seemed to be. I remember that my Dad in law said, “You know Amy, we don’t expect you to be perfect or able to do everything. We just want you to do what you can and stop worrying about getting back to 100%. It’s okay with all of us if you are never back at 100%.” I mulled this conversation over many times after that. It took a long time for me to accept that I was the one continually dissatisfied at my lack. For the sake of my peace, I needed to let go of what was already gone. I didn’t decide I’d never get better. I didn’t decide I would stop trying, or hoping. I just decided to stop looking at what I didn’t have, and only look at what I DID have. God wasn’t done with me because things weren’t the way I thought they should be. God just had a much different future in mind than I did. I had to lay my future down at the altar of God. I pictured what I wanted my life to look like, and I surrendered it and laid it down at the altar, and I set it on fire. Whatever God wanted my life to be, would be. Whether I ever had these abilities again, was in God’s hands. If His answer was no, then I would have to trust that in His infinite wisdom, this was better for my soul. I would just see where He led me from here.
Somehow this freed my heart. It’s okay if I never became a nurse. It’s okay if I can’t lift stuff by myself. It’s okay if my kids have to help me pick things up off the floor. It’s okay that I can’t run. It’s okay if everything did not turn out the way I wanted. It’s even okay that I still struggle with daily physical pain. I had to weigh my love for God, against the desire for my life to be done my way. Do I love God enough to obey and trust Him even when I HATE what that means? I hope so. In this case yes. I do love God more than my hopes and dreams. I imagine it’s exponentially harder to sacrifice my son for God. He did it for me though. God sacrificed His son for me. He wants me to keep Him as my all the time, no matter what, through thick and thin…number one.
I’ve often sat completely dumbfounded over the last 9 months. I am blessed beyond what words can express. I have been gifted some abilities back. Not all of them, maybe half. Each ability is not taken for granted. The ability to take walks, hike mild to moderate paths, and even hold my baby nephew for a bit. I can sleep most nights, I can do about 75% of the housework. These things are gifts and I think of them as gifts. I am not owed them. It was a mistake that I ever thought these things were mine to begin with. All life and breath belong to God. I’m thankful He has seen fit to allow me to use these abilities again.
God wants us to place our sacrifices on the altar with the knowledge that He is good and worthy to be trusted with our most precious treasures, because they were never ours in the first place. Everything precious was God’s first. We are entrusting Him to care for all of His creation, with all wisdom and power and love. He wants good for you. Sometimes good just feels a lot more like being forced to eat vegetables when what we want is cake. In His wisdom, He knows what our souls need and what is good for them and what will bring it the best health. He is an all knowing all wise Father.
The thing that helps me over and over, is remembering that God loves each of us more than we can fathom. He doesn’t want to punish and torture and deprive us. God wants to reward us, comfort us, and fill our souls. God is always trying to get us to where He can someday welcome us home and into His kingdom and His arms, He has to test our faith, our love, hope, our obedience, and our trust. We don’t have tests in life. Life IS the test. Even the good stuff is a test.
The test isn’t over until you die, so don’t put down your pencil.