It has been an emotional day. It's hard to explain, but sometimes the sacrifice is more keenly felt than at other times.
Today my oldest child hopped on a bus and headed to Army Basic Training. It isn't that we had to say our goodbyes. We are on the other side of the globe from him already. We said our goodbyes months ago when we left him Stateside as we returned to the field. Today is different though. Today I am reminded that I cannot be there for these big events. Today I didn't get to help him pack. I didn't get to nag him about running late. I didn't get to fix his last good breakfast. I didn't get to go with him to the bus station. Why? Because God has us in a distant land serving Him.
There are some Christians who say that serving the Lord is never a sacrifice. Maybe those who believe that are stronger Christians than I am. I think maybe they don't understand what the difference between a gift and a sacrifice is. I think maybe that they don't understand that it's okay to sacrifice and that sacrificing isn't a sign of spiritual immaturity. I think they don't fully understand what it means to be a "living sacrifice" (Romans 12:1) and what it means to give the "sacrifice of praise" (Jeremiah 33:11; Hebrews 13:15).
I don't think I grasped the meaning of sacrifice until we came to the field. The people here taught me the real meaning of sacrifice. Many times we have been invited to someone's home for a meal. We would arrive at their home for the meal. The home was often little more than a shack. Many times it would have dirt floors and often only one or two rooms. We sat on the floor or a bed because there was no table or chairs. Then the family would feed us a huge meal including meat. We knew this was more than they could afford and that they would feed us until we were full, even if it meant they would go hungry. They would always serve us first to make sure they had prepared enough to fill us. Sometimes a family would not eat with us for fear of not having enough, and other times it was because they didn't have enough plates to serve everyone at the same time. The people were so happy to feed us and serve us. They were not standing there hoping we would only eat a little. They didn't have worried looks on their faces wondering if they would get to eat. Yet if we ate too much they would go hungry.
A gift is something you freely give. It costs you something. But a sacrifice goes deeper. A sacrifice costs you something precious and valuable. It hurts. It causes a loss. Like hunger pains in the night because you gave your food away, sometimes there are pains in the heart because you gave something more precious than food away. Does it make a missionary less spiritual because they cry when they feel the sacrifice? Actually it makes the sacrifice more precious in our Father's eyes. When we shed the tears and still willingly lay the sacrifice on the altar, we declare, "Lord, it hurts, but you are more precious to me than this very precious thing!" He isn't looking for dry eyes and pasted on smiles as we offer our sacrifices. He is looking for a willing heart that doesn't begrudge the sacrifice even when it hurts. He wants us to freely (willingly and liberally) sacrifice.
Psalm 54:6 "I will freely sacrifice unto thee: I will praise thy name, O LORD; for it is good."
Yes, today I feel the heart hunger pains. Today I had to reexamine my heart to make sure that I was still freely sacrificing. Today I had to remind myself just how worthy He is of my praise and my sacrifice. He is worthy of this and much, much more.
Go ahead. Shed the tears. It doesn't make you less Christian, less spiritual, or less holy. But remember the sacrifice He made for you. Through the pain, through the tears, through the hurt... He still laid His life down on the altar because you were precious to Him. You were more precious to Him than His own life and all the comforts and glories of Heaven. Take your sacrifice, lay it on the altar, shed the tears, and then say with your whole heart, "You are worthy, Lord."
Today it hurt. But I can honestly say He is worth it.