Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Different Sacrifice

After these things God tested Abraham.  He said to him, "Abraham!"  And he said, "Here I am."  He said, "Take 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 that I shall show you.  ... When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order.  He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.  Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son.  But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, and said, "Abraham, Abraham!"  And he said, "Here I am."  He said, "Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me."  And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns.  Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son."     -- from Gen. 22:1-14

This verse is part of the upcoming Sunday's readings, which we study each week in our Wed. night Bible study.  It speaks powerfully to me.

In the past, I have read this passage as a hard story, difficult to understand:  why would God ask Abraham to sacrifice his son, the one promised to him at long last?  The most frequent commentary on this passage tells us that this story illustrates the importance of Abraham's complete devotion to God, above everything else.  But still, it's a hard passage to understand.

In my experience, God has asked me to do hard things, really hard things sometimes, but never has he asked me to harm someone else.  Every hard thing God has asked me to do, has been for the good of all concerned.  If I heard God telling me to sacrifice one of my sons, I would doubt my sanity.  I would consider checking myself into a mental institution.  Wouldn't I?

I had a sort of epiphany about this passage last night.  For I see too much of myself in this passage.

I have been struggling a lot lately, trying to find the right balance in my life between spending time with my family and spending time reading and writing about faith.  This has been a struggle for a long time.  I place a high value on spending time in daily devotions.  Doing so deeply enriches my life.  I also place a high value on spending time with my family.  This also deeply enriches my life, and theirs, as well.  When I spend too much time devoted to one of these parts of my life, the other one suffers, and so, as a result, do I. 

However, I have probably tended to neglect my family more than I have neglected my time with God.  I know God wants me to love and care for my family, but I have frequently thought that my devotion to God takes precedence.  And so, I have encouraged my children to watch more television, or play more video games, just so that I will have more time to read and write.  As a result, they are losing out.  They are being sacrificed.

I have been doing pretty much just what Abraham did.  Abraham believed he was obeying God's will by sacrificing Isaac.  I was thinking that pursuing my studies, devoting so much time to reading and writing, was what God wanted me to do -- even though that meant I would spend less time with my children.

But God did not want Abraham to sacrifice Isaac.  Isaac was part of Abraham's promise. Slowly, I am hearing God tell me something different, too.  I am starting to get, after much repetition, and from many sources, that the consequence of giving my children so much "plugged-in" time is their spiritual death.  For I see that my children are not having enough time relating to real people, or managing the real challenges of life, or learning how to do many different things, or appreciating the world around them.  When they become adults, how will they know these things?  Realizing this, seeing the dire consequence of my neglect, has made my blood run cold.  I have to change the way I do things.

God provided Abraham with a different sacrifice.  What is my ram?  What else can I sacrifice?

Perhaps, God has been providing me with an answer to this as well.  Lately, I have been feeling overwhelmed by all the books I have to read.  I have piles of books on three sides of my reading chair.  "So many books, so little time" has been my unhappy mantra.  I feel increasing pressure to read fast and read often, just to get through them.  And yet nothing is really grabbing me.

I have always justified the time I spend reading with the fact that these books about Christianity, religious history, and other faiths, help me understand my faith and God better.  And, I have reasoned that the kids don't need me as much anymore.

Perhaps I need to cut myself off from books the way an alcoholic cuts out alcohol, or a chain-smoker stops smoking.  I will do so, and see what happens.

Dear God, thank you for guiding me to see your message clearly and completely.  Thank you for opening my eyes to my own faults and for not giving up on me.  Love always, Pam


tonjia rolan said...

Ah yes. I remember that dilema. I have confidence that you will find the balance needed in your life. I love your blog. I think you are a deeply insightful person.

Pamela Keane said...

Thank you, Tonjia!