The Night and the Sacrifice

The sinister side of Stornoway Free Church was revealed to me last Sunday when I was taken aside and threatened by our Assistant Minister. ‘Do NOT record this’, he hissed. Oh my goodness, I thought, all the conspiracy theories were right – he actually suspects me of wearing a wire. But then his meaning dawned on me. Having been called in to take the service at short notice, he didn’t want the sermon recorded as he’d already preached it elsewhere.

His general demeanour was so menacing, however, that I sat with my arms folded throughout the service just so that he could clearly see that I wasn’t even touching the audio equipment. Still, I did manage to take on board some of what he was saying.

It was about Abraham going up to Mount Moriah to sacrifice his son, Isaac, because God had commanded him to do so. The message of this lovely, familiar incident is one of extraordinary faith, of course. Christians aspire to be like Abraham, prepared to give up that which he loves because his God desires it. Imagine, you find yourself thinking, that level of obedience.

Imagine, the minister said, the night before that sacrifice.

We can probably all do that. I have certainly had those nights. Oh, not sacrifice, no – but long, sleepless hours, dreading what the morning will bring. What will the scan show? Has the oncologist got bad news for us? How will I get through my husband’s funeral service?

It’s difficult for me not to let my mind dwell on what I’ve lost, at this time of year more than any other. From January through to March, when Donnie died, I relive the gradual loss of hope, the coming to terms, the apparent end of everything

Perhaps Abraham also felt that way on what he thought would be his final journey with Isaac, that longed-for son of his old age. But he kept putting one foot in front of the other. It was a faith journey, in the truest sense.

Mine was different. I took every step in resistance to what God was gently telling us. If my stubbornness could have kept my husband alive, he’d be here now.

The long, dark nights before, though, they pass, and even they must give way to morning.

How dreadful that dawn must have seemed to Abraham. Despite never having to do what he did, it is not impossible to empathise with him. My faith has not made such demands on me, probably because I do not possess the faith of Abraham. Yet, I can enter into his suffering in a small way, because I can recall the terrible fear that comes in knowing death is close by.

But what about the journey home, and the night after? It is hard to imagine that Abraham’s bed was much easier. His heart must have been overflowing with love for God who had stayed his hand at the eleventh hour and restored Isaac to him. He must have been filled with wonder at the meaning of his test on the mountain. And he was surely reassured at the willingness his son, Isaac, displayed to be the sacrifice that God required.

I don’t think that the joy and the thankfulness were just because Isaac was alive, though. That is not the world-fixated way that faith works. Christian joy is not tied to such variables as life or death.

Donnie died, but I can understand Abraham’s night after better even than his night before.

He did not require a sacrifice from Abraham but, then, He did not require one of me either. God’s great kindness to me was in taking, rather than asking me to give – because unlike faithful Abraham, I would have sinned my soul and refused. And if that route had been open to me, what a world of blessing I would have denied us both.

The night before is all about dread. But the night after, you see His hand, His nail-marked hand guiding you from the place of sacrifice to the place of peace and of love. You rest in Him, and then you see the journey differently because He is with you in it, always.

And in the light of being loved by Him, you forget there ever was a night before.

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “The Night and the Sacrifice

  1. Just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy reading this blog. It is pleasantly factual, balanced, and enlightening, I felt I had to make contact. My family and I are moving to your beautiful island, and have spent some considerable time debating whether this is the right move. All we have thrown at us are negative comments- that we ‘won’t be allowed’ to do this , or ‘will find it hard’ to do that. Perhaps I’m naive- but I know that the reason I want to raise my children on this wonderful island is because of its uniqueness, it’s people, it’s traditions – I have no desire to see anything changed , and hope that as incomers we are not eyed with suspicion or dread because of these folk that want to change the very things that make us want to call Lewis home. Please make us welcome, and we wholeheartedly support you in keeping your homeland special.

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    • Hi Amanda. How nice of you to get in touch – and really nice to hear of a young family moving to Lewis. It absolutely IS the right move and you will certainly not be viewed with suspicion. The biggest challenge is the weather – and that’s usually exaggerated for effect! Our winters don’t usually get that cold, and we rarely have snow (this year was an exception!). To be fair, our summers don’t get that hot either, but it hardly gets dark at all those months, which more than makes up for the darkness of winter. Sundays here are chilled out – if you’re on Facebbok, check out our group, ‘We Love Lewis and Harris Sundays’ for a flavour of what people get up to – times for dog-walking, playing with the kids, eating meals, reading, lazing and, if it’s your thing, going to church. It is fabulous having a day in the week when you know you’re free from all that other stuff. Delighted you’ve chosen Lewis (it really is the best island) and, if you have anything you want to ask in more detail, feel free to email me through the blog and I’dbe happy to help!

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