I’ve noticed a pattern in my life. I wonder if you’ve noticed something like it in your life, too.
Whenever I feel like God asks me to do something, it ends up being a test. Honestly, it could be a little thing or a big thing. Sometimes I can feel that Godly nudge or impression to do something like call someone or send them a ‘checking in’ text. Other times God asks me to do something that’s out of my comfort zone and I struggle with whether or not to go through with it. Small or large, I noticed that sacrifice will be part of the equation of meeting His request and moving onto the next level in my spiritual life.
My tests are always relationship related.
Romance. I didn’t always make good choices when it came to the romance department. Most of the selections I made were great guys. We just weren’t a great match. Former relationships came to mind over the years and at different times. Each of them carried a deep revelation for me to discover and learn from if I was humble and willing to accept the education. Sacrifice with regards to a romantic relationship was one of the hardest kinds of sacrifice I ever made. Leaving a relationship meant severing an intense emotional tie with someone. Ask anyone who knows me well. Once I finish a relationship, you’re dead to me.
Parish relationships. Every time I made the decision to accept a new appointment, it meant I had to leave one church for another. Ministry relationships are often forged from the metal of intense life experiences. Weekly worship, bible studies, hospital visits, anniversary celebrations, vow renewals, baptisms, weddings, funerals, meetings….meetings….and more meetings are only part of the ministry we do as pastors. I truly left bits and pieces of my heart at every step along the way. I developed deep friendships while I worked and lived in each community. I stay connected to many people from former parishes, but it is never the same when we relocate.
Reputation. I made choices that were popular because I wanted to please people. I love fitting in, being liked and admired. I discovered I could lose myself doing that. I could lose my soul—the essence of who I am because I was so enamored with wanting others to love me that I lost my sense of personal value even what was right or wrong. I believe they call this the ‘Chameleon Effect.’ It’s unintentional mirroring of other people in our interpersonal relationships. It’s the ability to quickly identify socially with others. The Chameleon Effect often applies to people who get along well and mimic each other’s body posture, hand gesture and speaking accents, among others. * You may have heard the cliche “imitation is the best form of flattery.” I had to give up my deep yearning to please people, in order for them to love me, if I was to ever be honest with God, myself and others. I had to relinquish that ability in order to speak God’s word with any integrity. Speaking God’s truth is often linked with the integrity of the speaker.
Sacrifice and faith are interrelated.
Two thousand years before Jesus came, Genesis 15:6 states, "Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” Abraham, like us, was justified by faith. There are some astonishing similarities between the story of Abraham and Isaac and Jesus. Words are not wasted in scripture. When we discover themes or hear similar stories we are meant to pay attention. There is something special, unique and precious about each of these stories. Each of them reveal a story of sacrifice and faith. More importantly, these two stories reveal a story of love.
Sunday we begin a new series. We will study Genesis 22 through the Lenten season. I believe you will find some deep meaning for your own spiritual life as we make comparisons between the faith stories of Abraham and Isaac and our own. We may discover some relationship insights together. Each of these stories can be read as a type of blueprint from which we can build meaning our own faith stories of sacrifice and faith. You may discover that some of the most meaningful intersections in life have included decisions related to sacrifice. I look forward to spend this Season of Trust with you.
After all this, God tested Abraham. God said, “Abraham!” “Yes?” answered Abraham. “I’m listening.” He said, “Take your dear son Isaac whom you love and go to the land of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I’ll point out to you.” Genesis 22:1-3 The Message
*The Chameleon Effect. Chartrand and John Bargh.