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Almost exactly a year ago, I published a post called Sacrifice about an impoverished expectant mother coming to my door asking for clothes for the baby who would soon be born; and how I had to work through the emotions of selfishness and give her things that were GOOD, things that would truly make a difference in her life.
At one point, I said the following in my post:
Special outfits made it into that bag yesterday. Some precious little dresses and pajamas that would make the eyes of her little princess look so bright and sweet all wrapped in beautiful fabric. One of my favorite soft pink blankets for her to wrap her darling baby in, like I had done with Jane and Margaret… I would actually remember her now, and think of her wrapping her baby up. I would actually remember to pray for her because she was wearing part of me.
Since that time, this mother has continued to come to my door, usually about every two months to ask for more clothes for her baby girl. I have each time given her clothes, chatted with her, and tried to build a sort of friendship with her. After a few visits with the woman and her baby, I began to realize that something wasn’t right. And then one day everything fell into place.
This woman didn’t have a baby girl. She had a baby boy. All this while, she had been keeping up a ruse, telling me she needed the clothes for her daughter when they were really to sell. So she made up a girl’s name for her child, presenting the baby boy each time as a baby girl.
The situation reminded me of how many times I have thought or heard others say things like “That wasn’t worth it, ” or “I was just trying to bless them, and look what happened,” or ” Wow. I learned my lesson. Never again…” I recognized in myself feelings of being victimized by this woman, feelings that my sacrifice on her behalf had been in vain.
And then I wondered, what if God destines my pearls to be trampled by swine? What is my reaction to that going to be? Do I truly believe He is doing something with that situation?
Caleb and I recently listened to a wonderful talk by Paul Tripp entitled “Conflict”. One of Tripp’s points was this : Your desire first and foremost should be God. Other desires take that place, becoming idols. Even if your desire is godly (for righteousness, forgiveness, justice, mercy), if that desire for that thing comes before God, it is an idol.
My true desire was to bless, a genuinely godly desire. But it didn’t happen like I anticipated. My pearls were trampled, and I was unhappy about it. Not surprised, exactly, but unhappy. I thought my gift was a pearl to be given wisely. Instead, it was taken advantage of and laughed at. The clothes were not treasured as I had wanted them to be, but rather cast off for money.
That was when I realized that perhaps the blessing of this act was not primarily the woman who was receiving the clothes, but rather what God was doing in me. You see, in my mind, I was the important element in this act of sacrifice. I was the one who was blessing someone else. I was putting myself first. My act of sacrifice had become an idol to me.
And God said “You have nothing to do with this. I can use you as a tool, but if this person is blessed, it will be by me, not you. You are a tool to bless. You do not run the universe. You are not in control. I am. You work and do what is right. I will bring the results as I will, not as you desire and will.”
Because this is how He works, overturning idols, working in unexpected ways. Sometimes the good is rejected, despised, just like Christ. He was the greatest, most precious gift of all, and yet
He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not. (Isaiah 53:3)
And yet through this, God worked His wonderful plan of salvation for us. He did not respond in anger, withholding mercy, withholding grace. And neither must I when my gifts are abused, discarded, or despised. I learned that sacrifice is not only giving generously, but also giving disinterestedly, as unto the Lord, trusting in His providence and in His love to bring about blessing.