“Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” – Genesis 22:2
This was in our family reading yesterday. As I was reading it out loud for my kids to hear, I wondered what sort of thoughts might go through their mind. A daddy was asked by God to sacrifice his son? And he DID it? Well, not completely, but still. He tied up his son, whom he loved, and offered him to God as a sacrifice?
I quickly connected it to something easier to swallow. I asked the kids, “What is something you love a whole lot, that God might ask you to let go of in order to follow Him?” I wondered what might be going through their minds, as they tried to imagine God asking something large in their life to be sacrificed in order to be a part of what God wanted to accomplish.
I remember reading this passage in college. Studying it with my theology friends. Talking about Kierkegaard’s thoughts over coffee, and feeling like we grasped just how audacious these passages of scripture were. Then life took me out of the coffee shop and into the mini-van. It’s so hard to understand Abraham’s response in this passage. It’d be easier if we had a chapter, or at least several verses after verse 2 here. A conversation, or at least open complaint to God from Abraham, of how unjust and difficult it was for him to swallow what God was asking him to do. Instead, the very next verse is about Abraham getting up , saddling his donkey, and telling his son “Let’s go”.
As I was reading the story this week, a thought struck me. Even though I’m not tying my kids up, laying them on an altar, and raising a knife above them….I am still offering my children to God as a sacrifice. As is any family that takes steps in faith toward a path God is calling them to. We spend time in prayer, as parents. We ask God to be with us. We ask God to bless us. We ask God to bless our family, and our home. We ask for Him to bless our children as they grow. But even more than “blessing”, we ask God to use our family for the purposes of His Kingdom. That has nothing to do with how successful our kids might be someday, or what college/career they head toward.
Although that’s definitely a tempting approach to praying for our children. In the popular TV show, “Once Upon a Time”, Snow White and her Beau save their infant from a cursed Kingdom by shoving the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes through a magic portal. This assures their child will escape the current cursed situation, and have a decent chance at a normal and successful life. Every parent faces this temptation. To shield our children from anything God might ask from us in this broken world, and prepare them for “someday” when they’ll be launched into life, ready and strengthened by years of protected existence.
Instead, God calls us to lift our children, and our family/home up onto the stone altar. To faithfully respond to whatever He’s calling us toward, even knowing it will impact them. It may cause suffering. It may mean large amounts of sacrifice. It might mean that after years of praying for God to help us with our adoption, our 8 year old will interrupt prayer time to say, “Dad, why doesn’t God just…you know….DO something?”
In those moments, I feel a little like Abraham carrying his son up the mountain. His son looks at everything they’re carrying, and in a confused moment he asks his father, “..but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” (v.7) Abraham responds that God will provide. In this similar moment, my daughter needs me to speak with faith into her life as well. It’s hard for me to do, just as I imagine it would’ve (should’ve) been for Abraham. Yet I look into her eyes and say the words, “God will provide.”
He will. He has. He is. Our family is being formed in a crucible of prayer that will and already is, influencing the direction of their lives. These little hearts who are called on every day to think about God’s heart for a broken world that needs healing. These young people who are reminded that just like God wants to use our family – God wants to use them for the sake of the world, also.
But just being honest here? I’m scanning those bushes like crazy, even as I’m tying up my children…