Who would have thought something as grimy as tearing your desires from the aorta of your being and laying them, bloody and mangled, at the feet of Christ and saying, “Not my will, but Thine be done,” could be one of the most beautiful processes in this long life?
I didn’t. It comes with weeping and the pain that ripping something out of yourself usually gives. Not that I’ve lost an arm or a leg before, but we all know the empty, bereft, wounded feeling that replaces something inside of you—when something is taken. It’s not a pain we would willingly bring upon ourselves.
Would Christ demand that of us?
Did I think he meant so much when he said to leave everything and follow him? I know what it meant for the disciples, I know what it meant for Peter to leave his fishing, but what does that mean now, for me, here in the present, fifty minutes after midnight on 21 August, 2013?
What is everything? How does one sacrifice it?
My desires fog any clarity I might have for God’s calling for me. I find ways to make them seem like they are his will, when really it is just my fleshly self pining for satisfaction. I long to have my selfishness and laziness justified, somehow.
85° and sun. Eleven o’clock AM. Buzzing sound of insects and humidity lingers over the fields. I pull weed after weed out of the long row of a plant similar to kale. The plants are still young. It feels like I am sweating blood as I pull, and I am angry fighting the weeds, angry at the way they choke the plants and twist around their roots, and how they grow to look so similar, to blend, but how they poison and kill in the end. And then I think, “What of the weeds choking your own soul?” I pull harder and faster, a weed snaps near the roots and I know that that wouldn’t do any good. I sweat more as I dig my fingers in the moist earth, pulling on the long, whitish root. It comes suddenly and I fall back with the release.
How much harder it is to clear those spiritual weeds, to find our true, Christ-centered being beneath the maze and tangle of thorns that must be uprooted. So yes, we emerge from this war with our flesh bloodied and bruised, but He will not let us be put out. Always, at the darkest moments in our lives, He sustains us, and we find that we can after all live another moment, and then another. After all, when you whittle it down, the passing of years is a matter of seconds, j u s t o n e a t a t i m e .
That’s what the sacrifice feels like. But I have made it sound joyless, I think. Certainly it does feel like a war we are waging, us running beneath the weight of our burdens into the arms of Christ, straining to him while our flesh is straining in a different direction, but Christ is always stronger, and His Spirit will renew us every morning, will give us the will and the courage and the desire to give up all we have, because He gives us eyes to see that He is the only race worth running, the only prize worth treasuring.
Our own sun sets in all its colossal fire when we die our glorious death, and fails under the rising power of the sun of righteousness, healing in its spreading wings, reaching to all who have feared Him, reaching places and dark souls I could not have fathomed. I stretch my arms up, stretch out my fingers, wanting the light to enter me. It shoots through me, out my back, it warms my whole being, it sets me on fire, it burns and purifies and leaves me whole and cleansed and purged. No longer a body, but a soul, boundless and immortal, in the company of immortals, all together the spotless Bride coming into the presence of her Bridegroom, finally, after a history of thousands of years and countless griefs, ready for endless rejoicing and a marriage that not even death can dissolve.
After this vision, daily mortification becomes worth it. The prize makes it bearable, his grace is all sufficient.