Place of Sacrifice

Giving up what is dearest in life to gain what is most important.

by Terry Arries

Christianity is a farce, I raged silently as I bent over my little girl’s crib. I watched my exhausted baby sleep — my precious little girl, Kim, whose hair glinted gold in the sunlight and whose eyes rivaled the deep brilliance of emeralds. Tears streaming down my face, I was engulfed with the special fear and terror only a mother knows when her child is in danger.

An overwhelming surge of protectiveness rushed through me. Then anger hit me in unrelenting waves as I recognized my helplessness. Kim and I were trapped; there was no escape.

Restlessly, I walked into the living room. Picking up the bill from that morning’s visit to Kim’s pediatrician, Dr. Rubenstein, I thought, Endless visits. And for what?

Truth and consequences

Earlier that morning I had faced Dr. Rubenstein and asked for the truth, though I didn’t want to hear it. “Is Kim going to die? I need to know!”

“I can’t answer that question,” Dr. Rubenstein said. “She has a good chance, if her body starts responding to treatment.”

In the examining room, I had looked at Kim’s sweet face, distorted with pain. Her anguish wrung my heart. Holding my crying baby, I turned and faced the doctor. “`If?’ That’s all I’ve been hearing for sixteen months — `if’! Kim has had those painful shots every two weeks since she was born. You can see how she screams and cries. And all you can tell me is ‘if’?”

Understanding the stress and fear behind my outburst, the doctor hadn’t taken offense. “Her white blood cell count is the lowest it’s ever been,” he said gently, holding the lab report in his hand. “The gamma globulin shots have helped her to survive her bouts of illness, but her own body is not producing white blood cells in large enough quantities. I can’t give you a miracle. Kim will either start producing enough white cells, or she won’t.”

Fear and anger

The reality of what the doctor told me paralyzed me with fear. Exhausted and defeated, I said, “Kim is always so sick and gets such high fevers. I’m up every night for weeks. Then, just as she seems to be getting better, the whole cycle starts all over again. And now you tell me there’s no end in sight!”

“You must face this situation. There are no guarantees in life. God has placed you in this position. Face it. Do the best you can.”

I could hardly keep the anger out of my voice. “Well, if God has placed me here, He can also get me out. I’m beginning to believe He likes to see people suffer to keep them humble and dependent. I think I’ve had about enough of such a God!”

Shouting at God

I’d returned home, tired and numb. Now hearing Kim stir in her crib, I tiptoed in to check on her. In a deep sleep, she sobbed softly as she moved her painful legs. The shots would bother her for several days. Returning to the living room, I huddled on the couch. I drew my legs up and hid my face in my arms. I wanted to hide, to be safe. But, again, at the thought of my baby’s torment, anger and resentment stirred in my heart.

I couldn’t stand to be still any longer. I began pacing the living room. Raising my fists to heaven, I shook them in frustration.

“Where are You, God? Why are You so cold and silent? Why are You giving me a stone and not the bread that a loving father would give? Have You deserted me? Where is Your promised peace and comfort?”

Silence was my answer. I felt mocked by God.

Profile of pain

I sat, limp as a rag doll, on the couch and thought about my unhappy childhood, with my cold, autocratic father and my erratic mother. Too many siblings. Too little money. Too little love.

Though I’d gone to church most of my life, God had seemed unapproachable. I thought of Him as the Big Policeman in the sky — ready to punish, but never warm and caring . . . much like my own father.

Fathers. Whenever I thought of them, my thirteenth birthday stood out in my mind. I had been thrilled to finally be a teenager. Many of the friends I’d grown up with had come to my party. But this day of joy soon turned to one of horror. My father stumbled into my party drunk and disheveled. He always resented when money was spent on anything but absolute necessities.

“You’re stupid and ugly,” my father had sneered at me, standing in the midst of my friends. “Nobody could ever love you.”

As a result of that trauma, I became a loner, unable to feel that I belonged anywhere.

How fathers should be

Drifting back to the present, I thought: But that all changed when I found You, Lord. You accepted me just as I am, warts and all. I felt I’d come home when I found You! You won’t betray me, too?

My husband, Don — warm, wonderful, and wise — was the antithesis of what I’d come to expect in all men. Loving and cherishing are as natural to him as breathing.

How funny to see him and Kimmie together. Don always has her on his lap or in his arms. As soon as she could toddle about, she never let her dad out of her sight. Don would have done anything to relieve her suffering.

Wasn’t that how fathers should be? Wasn’t God as loving a Father as Don?

Beginning of illness

I went to the kitchen and began washing the breakfast dishes. The warm water felt wonderful on my cold hands as I twirled the soap suds, my mind beginning to wander. I was remembering when Kim first became ill.

I wasn’t afraid, at first, I thought, as I spoke quietly in my mind to God. I knew You could heal. There is nothing You can’t do. If my baby was ill, You would heal her. Nothing more simple, right? I reached for the pan on the stove and started fiercely scrubbing it.

Okay, God, so what’s the deal? I know I believe and have faith in You. Don and I have both prayed. Our church has prayed. The elders have laid hands on Kim. We’ve studied the Bible, appropriated Your promises, and awaited Your timing. What do You want? Why won’t You heal my baby?

No answer.

Words from the Bible

I finished the dishes and dried my hands. In utter despondency I went back to the living room. If my silent God had deserted me, where else was I to turn? My eyes fell on my Bible on the coffee table. A verse from Genesis 22 slipped into my mind, stunning me with its impact. I quickly opened my Bible to make sure I’d remembered it correctly. I had. The verse read: “Then God said, `Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about'” (v. 2, NIV).

I knew. With absolute certainty I knew that God was asking for Kim. A clarity I’d never before experienced flooded my mind as I realized that I’d been placing my love for my little girl above my love for God. I’d been asking for my will. My will. Not God’s. Not His sovereign choice. A clay pot had been railing at its Maker, not falling in submission at His holy feet.

I realized that I’d been trying to manipulate God, that I’d been doing all the “right things” so He would be required to answer my pleadings. I’d never really considered that He might ask for Kimmie.

Wrestling with God

I did not expect this command from Genesis. Could I still love God and call Him “Master” if He took my tiny daughter? Would hatred and bitterness fill my heart, consuming all desire to serve Him?

As surely as Jacob wrestled with the angel of the Lord, so I strove for my baby’s life. In torment I fell on the floor, pleading again with my God.

“Surely, sweet Jesus, You’re not asking this of me? Not my baby’s life. How easy for You to heal her. Just a touch. Oh, my Lord and my God, not this!”

Even as I spoke, though, I knew the answer. Only total submission to God’s sovereign’s will would do. In my breaking heart I built an altar. Upon this altar I placed my only, beloved child as truly and sacrificially as Abraham had ever placed Isaac on the altar of Moriah.

“Oh, my Lord, I place my trust in You. If You are going to take my baby, take her. I can’t fight You any longer. Forgive me, Lord, for my lack of trust and obedience. I don’t understand why You are asking for my little girl, but I do love and trust You. Help me in the time ahead.”

Resting

A profound peace filled me. The battle was over, the victory won. I let go of all the anger and fear I’d been living with for so many months. I would rest in the perfect will of God for my life.

Six weeks later, Kim and I were again at Dr. Rubenstein’s office. Kim had not been ill during all that time. She sat up bright and alert in my arms, radiant with health.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Dr. Rubenstein with a puzzled look on his face. “Kim’s white blood cell count is absolutely normal. This is impossible. It couldn’t have changed so quickly.”

But it had. And in my heart I knew why. As Isaac had been returned to Abraham, so had my little girl been given back to me. I learned that God is the Great Physician and, unlike my earthly dad, a Father to be trusted.

Maybe the time had come for another healing. When I get home, I thought, I think I’ll call my dad.