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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Art of Sacrifice

God has a sense of humor. Sometimes I say this with a smile, sometimes it's a bittersweet reality. Right now I'm living in the latter part of that sometimes.

I've recently finished my first contracted novel of this year and turned it in, then turned right around and started working on my second book. This is not optimal writing time, but it was a gift and opportunity straight from God.

When I first began this writing journey, I wrote a book about forgiveness thinking I knew what I was talking about and it would be easy.

I'm pretty sure God chuckled.

I can now join Him in that because I learned the hard way that there is nothing easy about writing, especially when God uses your book to teach you a deeper truth. A truth that's sometimes painful.

I can laugh now because I see what God did in my heart, my life, and my work, and in retrospect it was worth every tear. God brought beauty from pain and joy from despair. He also created books that I'm proud of and that He used to touch hearts and draw people into a place of healing.

You'd think after a number of subsequent books I'd learn. Apparently, I'm still in kindergarten.

You see, I've tried to write books about chocolate and friendship. God closed that door.

I tried to write the first book of this new series without really bleeding on the pages. God said no.

So I did what most kindergarteners do, I pouted and tried the whole, "I'll do it by my own self!"

Yeah, I know. You all had no idea how mature I could be. ;-)

God is a perfect parent and thankfully doesn't laugh at me nor leave me to my own devices and plans. He's wooed me slowly and subtly and in some not-so-subtle ways regarding the next lesson.

I thought book two was going to be about fear, what happens when faith fails. God allowed me to go forward on that premise but then started putting books in my path that challenged me to go deeper.

So I started playing around with the idea that maybe this book was about sacrifice versus selfishness and how God can use both. Maybe even that there's a deeper picture, an echo of the real life we're called to live. There's a part at the end of the novel that is clearly a huge spiritual and physical sacrifice so it meshes nicely with this idea.

But that wasn't enough. God had to make it personal.

First my pastor had to go and talk about how we are called to a life of death, the way of the cross, to lay down our wants and rights and plans without a fight for the cause of Christ. For something bigger than ourselves. Sacrifice. To follow Christ means to follow Him in death, so that life, real life, is what He lives through us.

Then I read in Sacred Parenting this morning a line that laid my selfishness bare. "While we find it easy to 'open up' a spiritual gift, it's not so easy to lay one down on God's behalf."

Ouch. That stepped all over my best laid plans for a book that didn't require my blood, sweat, and tears.

There were hopes and dreams I had for this section of my journey that I'm having to lay down. One of those is a story that didn't turn my world sideways and pound my heart to pieces.

But even as I wrote about this in my journal this morning, I realized there was a purpose. I may not always get to see the reason God asks me to lay something down, but I can trust His heart.

He's never taken me through the fire for nothing. A book with fire in it that has God's fingerprints and my tear stains all over it is a gift. A sacrifice of love to a God who's given me everything.

An opportunity to fly in the face of "normal" and easy and instead choose an adventure that will change me, grow me, and draw me deeper into Christ.

This call to sacrifice is hard. It's death. I didn't ask for it. I don't often want it. But it's the call of the cross and the Christ of the cross. To lay it all down without a fight or a two-year-old pouting session and trust the heart of the One who walked this path first into a horrific death and life-giving resurrection.

There is an art to this call of sacrifice. A surrender full of grace and peace and hope. A trust like Job's that says though He slay me, yet I will trust in Him.

I just happened to look up to the left of my monitor to see a writing verse God impressed on my heart four years ago: 2 Samuel 24:24 "I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”

I think God is chuckling again. This time I'm joining Him at the beginning.
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