Monday, March 28, 2011

A living sacrifice

Before I climbed out of bed this morning I prayed for SK. Obviously I pray daily for my children, but in this pre-graduation season of her life, SK is walking around with pine-cones in her feet (as she used to call the tingly feeling others might call 'pins and needles', a phrase apt since she lives on a college campus covered with pine cones and needles), waiting for, and worried about what doors God will usher her through for the next chapter of her life.  So I've been opening my eyes to prayer for her each morning, before I even reach for my Bible and let Him open my eyes to Him. 

This morning, as I prayed, the words of Romans 12: 1-2 came rushing through my mind.  Many people know these verses thusly: "Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God's surpassing mercy, to present your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God--which is your spiritual worship.  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test what God's will is--His good, pleasing and perfect will."  This is the NIV version of these verses. 
Great stuff.  However, NOT the words that ran through my head, which were: "With eyes wide open to the mercies of God, I beg you, my brothers, as an act of intelligent worship, to give Him your bodies as a living sacrifice, consecrated to Him and acceptable by Him. Don't let the world around you squeeze you into its mold, but let God remold your mind from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all His demands and moves toward the goal of true maturity." ( This is the JB Phillips translation, though, in all honesty, I had to search the house to discover this.  It was just as likely to be the Living Bible Paraphrase.  These two, along with the New American Standard Bible, were the Bibles I wore threadbare when I was a teenager, and did the preponderance of my memorization.)  The point is that these words hit me in the gut this morning, not merely for SK, but also for me as I pray for her.

See, my prayers have been that He give her one of the many internships for which she's applied.  She's been faithful in doing her part, I remind God, and that counts for much.  Then, as I pray, I begin to wrestle with the idea of His will, and I realize that I still--STILL!!!--have this vague notion that somehow His will is contrary to our desires.  I have this sense that our desires--SK's desires--are worldly, and His will is always Kingdom, and never the twain shall meet.  So we must, in the end, sacrifice/surrender our desire, our hopes and dreams to Him, to His will, and only then will He have control.  My notion of this comes straight from the Garden of Gethsemane, of course, where Jesus sweated drops of blood, prayed through the night, gave up rights and went boldly to do The Father's will.  It cost Him everything.  That's what it means to say, "Your will be done, Lord."

And I'm right.  I am. But what is also true is that God doesn't always call us to die to our deepest desires.  I have a story from my past (of course) that I should have been paying attention to.  After Beve told me how he felt about me in India, we flew back to Holland where we were living on a YWAM base, and we quietly began to make plans for our future.  We'd return to the States after finishing our DTS and get married.  Beve had a commitment with a basketball camp which he needed to fulfill for the coming year so this plan made sense.  We strongly felt that God had called us to be married, which dovetailed perfectly with our desires.

However, then the field trip (three to six to year-long terms) opportunities were announced.  One was in a refugee camp in Thailand.  And suddenly I got the notion that I should 'give up' Beve and travel to the Far East to be a missionary, because that had been my plan before I went to Holland.  I worked myself into quite a lather.  It was oh-so sacrificial, and exactly what God's will was supposed to be, right?  Sweating blood, praying all night, oh yeah, I did it all.  And finally, actually talked to a very, very wise older couple in leadership.  They were gentle with me, but were probably shaking their heads at me as well.  Basically said, "God gave you your heart's desire and you want to throw it in His face? Why don't you believe Him when He says His will is good?" I said something about everyone there going on field trips, and how I should too, and they said, "Don't be conformed to this world--even the world this YWAM base."  A weight dropped from me.  Of course. Would my life be more a Kingdom- extending life with Beve, or without Him?  The answer was simple.

And that, I think, is the question.  In what was will SK's life most honor Him? How will she, how will any of us, be a living sacrifice? She must--as we all must--give herself over to that, to living for Him and to Him as a wholly living, breathing testimony that He reigns, to be, as it says, a living sacrifice.  And if she takes care to do her part--to live that--He will absolutely do what is good, meets His demands and leads her toward the goal of spiritual maturity.

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