We are taught to never sacrifice ourselves, particularly for other people. Sacrificing your needs, desires, and feelings for another person’s is unhealthy, unwise, and weak.
That’s the message my heart received in my first twenty-five years as I grew up in the traditional rural South surrounded by Christian institutions. Giving myself up for someone else was not the right choice.
Then God began to strip down my heart and my mind in preparation for motherhood. I needed a lot of work; I still do, and this business of sacrifice was something He wanted to talk to me about.
While I was pregnant, I ran across this article entitled “Motherhood is a Calling (And Where Your Children Rank).” I recognized myself not in the dedicated mothering author, but in the wider culture that has devalued children and the ongoing act of raising them. That’s who I had been for a long time. But God was causing my spirit to cry out with recognition that I had listened to the wrong source.
Because let’s face it–God is all about sacrifice. Look at our Lord Jesus. Dying a cruel, physically punishing death. Bearing the wrath of His Father for our unrighteousness. Being forsaken so that we can rest in the assurance of never being forsaken. Sacrifice, sisters. Jesus sacrificed it all.
Even before his sacrificial death, Jesus lived to serve. Perfect. Holy. Righteous. Loving. Merciful. Servant. Lamb. The ultimate sacrifice.
And our Lord tells us that the greatest love is to lay down our lives for another, as exemplified by Christ.
When I was in the midst of emotional turmoil in my daughter’s first six weeks of life–depressed, terrified, wanting to get in the car and head for the coast–God, with all his love and mercy, began to show my heart how special an opportunity I had. An opportunity to sacrifice. And it wasn’t unhealthy or weak. It wouldn’t destroy me; it would heal me.
I pray there’s no misunderstanding here. There’s a level of self-care that we must engage in to be fully functioning for our families. Our personal walk with God is the most important part of that, and after that, I’m all for us taking time out of our days for nourishing activities. Right now, I’m sitting in a coffee shop while my mother-in-law watches the little one. Tuesday I went to yoga class. I even spent a night alone this week while my husband worked and Caroline spent the night with her grandparents. I am not opposed to Mama (or Wife) taking time for herself. At all.
For me, God showed me a deep change in attitude and perspective that needed to occur. It wasn’t so much about my actions; it was about the spirit in which they are performed.
When I’m caring for my daughter alone during the day and I begin to wish I could just lay her down and get back to my business as usual, I remember how highly God prizes sacrifice. And I look at my great opportunity to sacrifice my desires to meet the needs of the helpless new human being in my arms. It matters. Those sacrifices we make throughout the day as we care for them–God sees. He knows. We can’t fake Him out with our calm demeanor. He hears the thoughts of our weary spirit, and then He sees the choice we make to serve in spite of the weariness.
I was that helpless once, not only when my parents had to care for me, but when my Lord had to die for me. I lacked any hope of saving myself, so He sacrificed. And He gave me life eternal and life abundant.
I pray I always listen to the Truth above the cultural deceit because that’s where true freedom lies.
Romans 12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
*Sally Clarkson’s The Mission of Motherhood has been a special encouragement to me on this issue.