I will not even pretend to understand the story of Abraham going up to sacrifice Isaac in Genesis 22. I love faith to make sense. I love God to make sense. I love very clear right/wrong/black/white stories where good prevails and never disguises as bad, where people are better at the end, and where people don't sacrifice their children! Needless to say, regardless of how many times I hear sermons or read commentary on Abraham and Isaac, I still don't like it.
I don't understand all the implications of what God did. But I am experiencing what Abraham must have (on a much smaller scale!) when God said "Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you." Genesis 22:2
As S. and I have journeyed through highs and lows during his sabbatical, we've had some distinct days. The past 3 days have been distinct because we have both felt God asking us to 'lay on the altar' dreams that we have thought are placed in our hearts from him. As we have been asking, "What season do you have for us right now, Lord?" He has clearly shown us He has much to do in our little family of 5 and that some other priorities, while perhaps noble, need to take a back seat.
This month I completed our classes for foster-to-adopt and am more excited than ever. We have paperwork and a homestudy to finish but much of the work is done. Yet within the last few days I have come back to this story of Isaac, knowing I need to come to a place once again where I can say, "Lord, you are enough. If these heart's desires of mine are never filled I can trust you to still bring me to my highest aim of obedience and holiness." Isaac was God's gift to Abraham but Abraham was still required to hold loosely to the gift & keep his face on the Giver.
Yesterday S. came to the same crossroads with one of his ministry passions; Big Oak. He is hoping that the Lord will add it back to him but knows that the Lord is asking him today to lay it on the altar.
We need to be in a place to say "we aren't defined by ministry. We aren't defined by what we seek (even if it is from God), we aren't defined by our circumstances, we aren't defined by people who think they need us." It's easy to say our identity is in Christ. It's easy to claim we do it all for His glory. But can we still glorify Him if He strips it all? When we stand feeling like all we've worked for is dust and we can't think of a single dream still in us... can we glorify Him? S. told me "I'm praying for God to dream for me." Oh, that's hard for a man bent on too many creative visions to complete in one lifetime! Yet this is the process of being "found in Him". Not "with Him" not "agreeing with His principles", not "found doing His work" but simply "found in Him."
Even if we hope God might add our dreams back to us, it doesn't alleviate the deep sadness as we are splitting the wood for the burnt offering. I know God already knew Abraham's heart and how he would respond. However, Abraham might not have known his own heart and his own response. Perhaps it took physically laying his son down on an altar to himself realize God is sufficient and worthy of ALL sacrifice.
Then the Angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, and said; "By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and not withheld your son, your only son- blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice." Genesis 22:16-18
I have concluded that some of the things that God is calling us to lay on the altar will burn and never come back to us. As painful as that is- good. Burn away if it isn't His best! I am so ready to set on fire the garbage that has been clawing at our hearts. I'm also hopeful that some things we have on the altar will be spared as we lift the knife up- that we will discover they are God's gifts intended for us and unspoiled.
I know Abraham must have been relieved, surprised, then elated that God intervened and provided a ram to slaughter. In fact, he named the place "The Lord will Provide" (Yireh). I wonder if his elation was not only at his son's survival but at the realization of his own depth of faith. Abraham was able to say "I thought I knew who my trust was in. Now I truly know who my trust is in." He must have felt freedom and exhilaration in that moment.
God is sufficient. He is worthy of ALL sacrifice. I am confident we will look back at this season of wrestling, praying, bringing things to the altar, and say "I thought I knew who my trust was in. Now I truly know who my trust is in."