My family and I were elbows deep in the process of moving overseas with IMB when we attended a Bible study that changed our focus. Our eyes had been fixed on what we were giving up, but it shifted to the amazing things God wanted to do. It released us from our own plans and inspired us to give ourselves completely to God’s extraordinary plan for us.
The lesson that evening was on Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son. Abraham trusted God in ways that I will never understand, and no example could display that more than Abraham’s sacrificial obedience. To walk that mountain with a knife and promise—I can’t imagine what was going through his head.
We All Sacrifice
That said, we all have “Isaacs” in our life. We have things that are precious to us—things that may even represent our future or our legacy—that God has asked us to sacrifice. And like Abraham, we don’t know if God will provide a substitute for our sacrifice or not. We’re not supposed to know, we’re just supposed to climb that mountain with our hearts set on following where God leads.
“We have things that are precious to us—things that may even represent our future or our legacy—that God has asked us to sacrifice.”
Abraham didn’t know all the details, but he knew his God and he trusted him. The manner in which God provided in the wake of Abraham’s obedience has remained a testimony to God’s provision and grace in my own life. Making the decision to leave the familiar and move overseas was the most frightening and exciting decision I ever got to make. And it took more sacrifice than I knew I could manage.
I sobbed when we sold our house of ten years. The night before we left the States, I drove around my hometown saying goodbye to the familiar streets. I hugged my friends for much longer than they were comfortable with. And I still get choked up when I sing a hymn that reminds me of my church family so far away. All those sacrifices were necessary. They sting, but they’re bearable.
I Can Sacrifice for Me, but What About My Kids?
But there’s still something that keeps me up at night, something with which I continually struggle: how can I sacrifice the plans I had for my kids? I’d planned my life around what I wanted for my children, and this missionary lifestyle doesn’t fit into that plan.
My kids were supposed to grow up in a small town, go to school with the same kids from kindergarten to their senior year, live around the corner from my parents, and visit their great-grandparents every Christmas, just like I did when I was growing up. They were supposed to be raised in my home church and experience the love and support that helped shape my own faith.
As I write these words, I’m just now realizing that I wanted them to have my life. It’s been comfortable and fun. Why would I want anything different for my kids? Maybe it’s because I’m not as creative or bold as the God I serve.
I have to sacrifice the “Isaac” that was my plan for my kids. I don’t have to sacrifice my children—thank goodness—but I do have to lay everything I’d planned for them on the altar. The future I wanted for them is forever dead and gone. My only hope is that God will provide something better.
Though It’s Hard, This Is Better
Our new reality is different and exciting, and it requires a subtle bravery to let God make the plans, particularly when it’s for my children. I have new questions constantly: Why is it that we trust God with our own lives, but it’s so much harder to trust that he has plans to cherish and bless our kids? What would happen if we stopped thinking about how our obedience could harm our children and dreamt about how God could use our obedience to grow our kids into the brave, obedient, Holy Spirit-sensitive adults we hope they will become. If God’s plan is good enough for me, when will I start believing it’s good enough for the precious little lives he’s entrusted to me?
“Our new reality is different and exciting, and it requires a subtle bravery to let God make the plans, particularly when it’s for my children.”
Already, I can see where God is providing for their future in ways that I couldn’t have imagined. I wanted them to have Christmas with their grandparents. Instead, family comes to visit, and we get time to concentrate on each family member as they come.
We were afraid that sacrificing our time with family was going to harm our kids’ relationship with them. Instead, my kids recognize that family is special. When we get together, we make the most of our time and create memories and experiences in a way that we didn’t prioritize in the States.
We were worried that our kids wouldn’t have lifelong friends. Instead, God has provided families around us, both here and around the world, that have formed a strong bond with our children. It’s going to be pretty tough to beat my home church, but I have faith that if God keeps us on the field, He will provide for that desire, too.
There’s not much he can’t do when we’re willing to sacrifice our “Isaacs.”