Of lessons, love and sacrifice...

When you open yourself to God, He starts to teach you things.

Chase and I had lunch the other day and he was sharing with me how a series of things happening in his life led him to believe God was teaching him to hold material things and his money loosely.

It's a great lesson--one that if you follow God for any length of time you will be coached in.

Anyway, the conversation got me to thinking about how one of the dangers of Bible studies always being in workbooks is that we begin thinking that is the only way to learn. If you ask God to begin teaching you the things in life He wants you to know, the lessons tend to arrive differently. Events begin to carry a theme and become a practicum of sorts. At least that has been my experience.

So then I began thinking about what my practicum has been recently. Again, for me this is not some truth uncovered in a quiet time or personal Bible study, but the thing I've received training in by God bringing things into my life that I've had to navigate.

If I were to sum up the lesson of the past few years, it would be about the definition of love. Specifically, that love is about sacrifice.

After all, the most satisfying love stories are the ones like Gift of the Magi--where the girl sold her hair for a pocket watch chain and the guy sold his pocket watch for hair combs. Or Casablanca where Bogart puts Bergman on the plane because it is what is best for her.

In day to day life, we are extraordinarily selfish. We'll sacrifice the little stuff...say the largest slice of pizza, but we rarely sacrifice the big stuff. And when we do, we don't actually give it up. We sort of hang onto the edge of it as if it were some big thing.

True sacrifice actually lets the thing you are sacrificing go. It could be time or money or dreams. Social position, public opinion, or the offense that has been committed against you. Whatever it is, it is probably uniquely personal to you.

I've written before, I think the Christian life is about what you give up rather than what you attain. The thing is that there is no love without sacrifice. And while we may secretly hope in our heart that if we sacrifice something we will get it back (sort of like Abraham and Isaac on the hill), it never actually works that way. What you sacrifice is gone once you really let it go.

The odd thing is that you wind up getting back something else. Something you never knew you always needed. And while you may feel the loss of whatever you've sacrificed, if you are honest with yourself, what you've received is much more valuable.

Where love is, there is sacrifice. And you can only learn it through practice. Not in a workbook or a blog post.

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Maira Gall