The Unraveled Series
It wasn’t too long ago when I sat at the crossroads of leaving behind a ministry my husband and I had poured our very lives into. Of course, seeing the potential it had to grow was an exhilarating challenge for us as a couple with entrepreneurial spirits. And our hearts for God meant we wanted front row seats to all that God was and would do. Nevertheless, when my husband felt the prompting for us to let go, he had a much easier time being faithful to that directive than me.
I typically think in both literal and metaphorical dollars and cents. The investment I had made meant I struggled to rationalize the inevitable loss in return should I simply walk away. And, in my mind, I had made the greatest of investments; I sacrificed time away from my family. Long nights and busy days, functioning as a distracted mom during that season and missing memories, the time I couldn’t recoup with my young newborn, my husband putting in long hours apart from us to cover the thousands and thousands (and thousands) of dollars it took to keep a non-profit in operation - these were all moments or monetary sacrifices I would never get back. I felt I needed to see this investment through to the end.
I remember telling Aaron I needed to go for a drive and took our new, comfortable, leather-seated SUV on a luxurious ride through the rural outskirts of the beautiful Hill County we called home. Every peaceful adjective I just used does not accurately describe what was happening within that car, though. My heart churned within me in one of the top three most confusing and frustrating internal wars I'd experienced. It was a monumental interaction I had with God. Out loud. Have you ever been so mad at the Enemy that it made you mad at God?
I wish I could say I heard His audible voice tell me what to do next after we had our wrestling match. But really, God allowing us the audacity to question His position of unrivaled authority is alone a miraculous response we overlook. My emotions that day meant I overlooked it. This clay was shaking her fist at the potter. (Isaiah 29:6)
Just a couple of weeks later, and still desperate for direction, I did hear the audible voice of God. I sat straight up in bed woken by the voice saying, “altar”. I clung to that message as incoherent as it seemed. I spent the next few weeks studying everything about altars; the first one in the Bible, the different reasons they were used, their purpose and importance, and everything in between. Filled with my fresh knowledge, my epiphany came in a simple resolution.
Talking out my struggle with my husband, or pastor, or friends, all this wise council I felt I needed to rehash this crisis with, I had always expressed my concern as the great 'sacrifice' my family and I had made. I didn’t understand how I could have done so much work for so long and then be stripped of any fruit of all that labor. That’s not how we know God to work right? I see that Proverbs says over and over there is reward for our hard work. So, over and over, the skewed question I pondered was, “What about the sacrifice I’ve made?" and "Am I failing God and those around me to give up now when I’ve given so much?”
I sincerely wasn’t worried about getting anything out of the deal. I just thought God reasoned like I did...I hated feeling like I had wasted His time and mine. My not seeing a return felt like a waste. I hate waste.
I know I am not alone. I know friends who have left everything and moved states away only for new jobs not to work out. I know kids who have grow up differently than raised and I've seen long-term friendships sour. I have heard ministries fizzle after leaders felt called and seen the "perfect scenario" not succeed. I have witnessed plenty of stories where the ending made the effort feel like "What was the point?" capped off with a big, fat question mark. I know this because many stories’ lead characters have sat at my kitchen table with tears dropping in their coffee.
We have all scratched our heads at what we felt was a waste. I have even said myself, “God doesn’t use our currency in His economy,” but the dollars and cents did not add up for me this time. Until one day, that little word ‘sacrifice’ I had been continually using to explain my stance took on new meaning.
Yes, there was no doubt I had sacrificed. There was no doubt lots of time and energy and effort was sucked from my life or from your life. But where is the intended and purposeful place of any sacrifice? Where is it meant to go? Sacrifices go on alters, friend.
There it was.
It is our choice to lay down what we've already sacrificed in the name of God at the altar of God and without regret. We lay our life's sacrifices down in surrender on God's "alter". We don’t remind God they are there. We don’t pick them up and take them back home. We don't become faithless because we can't see like Him what will result from that sacrifice. We leave sacrifices on the altar as a gift for our magnificent God. The God who has all power in heaven and earth, yet still allows us to wrestle well with Him. (Genesis Chapter 32) The God who patiently grows us in understanding.
Literally, from Genesis to Revelation, where altars are discussed all throughout, I had come to understand that a sincere sacrifice in Jesus’ name is never a waste, no matter the results we are left with. And because our investments are for Him, our ability to lay down our sacrifices of life on the ‘altar’ determines the level of relationship we will choose to have with Him. What great sacrifice have you made that doesn’t make sense in the aftermath? Come to the altar. Lay your offering down. God sees the value in our sincere sacrifices even when we don’t. If your investment didn’t yield what you thought, still, just lay it down.
For your good and His glory,
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