~ Sweet Sacrifices ~
Part 1 of 4
Sacrifice is a major theme in most spiritual traditions and cultures. (Of course, many emerging life styles and philosophies, such as the egocentric "New Age", do not embrace the practice.) You hear about sacrifices for the country, for the family, for the career, for the corporation, for society. Not enough attention is given to the distinction between sacrifice and self-sacrifice. Then there's the people who seem to engage self-sacrifice, but are really sacrificing what belongs to others for personal gain. For instance, the parent who is never home because he or she is too busy "sacrificing" for their kids at work so they can "have what I never had" may be, in reality, placing their kids' nurturing and need for loving attention on the sacrificial altar rather than anything that belongs to him or her.
Then there is the "hero sacrifice", characterized by the expressed modesty of "I was just doing my job. Anybody else in my place would have done the same thing." This typical response just serves to make the proclaimed hero even more heroic. More often than not, that response is not quite the truth.
So what constitutes true sacrifice? In chapter 13 of I Corinthians the apostle Paul points out that even if you sacrifice your property and your very life, without the motivation of love, it amounts to nothing. Interesting thing though: When you sacrifice out of love, you don't feel like you are sacrificing. Although there is loss involved in all sacrifice, you just don't feel it.
The "Internet culture" has generated thousands of inspirational stories that are passed through emails. Their origins or authors cannot be traced and thus these literary treasures are considered in the public domain. (This inspired the book, available through our web site, "Touched By An Email".) There's a wonderful story that probably came across your monitor about a young boy who walked into a restaurant with only fifty cents and sat at a table. He asked the waitress how much an ice cream cone cost and she replied, "Fifty cents." You would figure he'd be happy at the news, but he wasn't. He asked the price of just plain ice cream in a dish. Both the waitress and others waiting for tables were growing impatient and she bluntly told the boy it would be thirty-five cents. The boy seemed happy and opted for the dish. And the waitress was happy to slap down the dish of ice cream and the bill so she could attend to the more "important" customers. When the boy left she went to clear the table and found payment for the dish of ice cream and a fifteen-cent tip.
To us it seems the boy sacrificed the extra luxury of a cone to be able to give the waitress a tip. I'll bet the boy didn't feel that way. Most likely, it was "his way", his way of living and treating people. It was a sacrifice motivated by the loving positive regard and honoring of another human. Most likely, the boy didn't feel any loss and didn't leave the restaurant patting himself on the back. However, the story ends with the waitress crying as she picked up her tip. Such self-sacrifices change the hearts of others.
I'll tell you another story that isn't part of the Internet literary culture. Someone approached her pastor with a desperate need and asked him how to get God to answer her prayers. The pastor told her about a friend he knew who had an even greater need involving healing for her daughter. This woman didn't seek the advice of the pastor. Rather, on her own, she sacrificed her job, time and property and rearranged her life around God's will as she perceived it. Very soon after, her daughter was healed and both their lives flourished. The person consulting the pastor grew eager and responded, "Then I'll do the same thing and God will answer my prayers!" The pastor had an interesting way of teaching spiritual ways. He told the desperate woman, "That won't work." "And why not?" the woman indignantly asked. The pastor replied, "Because my friend never heard this story."
Click here for Part 2
John S. Hilkevich, Ph.D.
Spiritual Resource Services
Weekly Reflections © March 2, 2000
Responses are welcome at: Reflections@prayergear.com
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