- Our friend in Iraq finds out that he will not be coming home for Christmas as scheduled a year ago when he left home. In fact, his stay in Iraq is now indefinitely extended. He responds with frustration but also characteristic grace, saying, "If you want to be someone the organization needs, you have to be there when they need you."
- Another dear friend--a kindergarten teacher in a low-income, inner city school, stays late at night to help with a "reading lock-in" so that children in her school can associate fun with reading and school. When I marvel at her dedication, she says, "The children really need this."
- Many, many friends are turning to www.adventconspiracy.org this year for inspiration in seeing Christmas differently--as an opportunity to forego gifts to each other and give to meet the needs of "the least of these" around the world.
I've been thinking a lot about sacrifice lately. Last week, JTH, founder of Faithwalking, reminded us that one difference between an organization and a movement is sacrifice. Louie Giglio used to always remind us at Passion that passion can be measured by the level of sacrifice that we are willing to make for the thing we are passionate about.
I look at my own life. I get paid well to do what I love and so does my husband. We live in a beautiful, comfortable home. We have plenty of time for rest and fun. Our children have everything they want (granted, they are very easily contented!) We almost never face opposition and we never face persecution. It's easy for us to worship at the altars of convenience and comfort, power and influence, approval.
So what does sacrifice mean for us? The dictionary definition says that sacrifice means giving up one thing for another thing considered to be of greater value. It's hardest for me to give up time and I often hang on to it selfishly. It's also hard for me to give up money, but not nearly as hard as time. But too often, the thing of greater value that I seek is actually second-rate--the approval of someone else, say, or a place at the table of influence or the ability to think well of myself.
Jesus said repeatedly that the Kingdom of God is worth every sacrifice that might be asked of us. That's hard for me to imagine sometimes. The Kingdom often feels like a vague ideal, like World Peace or Santa. It takes intentional mental discipline to see it differently . . . and then as soon as I think I've glimpsed it, it's gone again.
I don't intend to go out looking for random sacrifices to make in the name of some noble quest. But I am trying to keep my eyes open, to see the places where sacrifice might be called for, to reject the assumption that my preferences and comfort are the most important value at stake. The spiritual disciplines help with that. So does the intentional giving of time and money to things and people I care about, especially when I try to consciously remember why I'm doing it.