Note: this has a really good ending.
I heard a radio preacher say that God sometimes (or was it all the time?) calls on us to die to our dreams, our gifts, our talents. It is a thought akin to the concept that the truly spiritual often have “dark nights of the soul,” that is, periods of time when God seems very far, if not non-existent in the sufferer’s life—a loss of another kind.
So tell me why would I want to become a Christian, then?
There’s enough heartache and disappointment in the secular realm.
In my Catholic upbringing I came to believe these sentiments through teachings from books on the recommended reading lists in the school library. From those, it seemed to me that the ultimate spiritual role model for girls and women was “virgin, martyr”. (Insert shudder, here)
I also gleaned the so-thought “nobility” of the “die to self” concept from “the religious,” that is, men and women who entered the priesthood or who became nuns. “Poverty, chastity, and obedience,” another spin on the “dying” concept, ruled their lives. Those “vows” meant, of course, giving up a lot of stuff.
But having attended, after my salvation, several denominational churches, I heard similar ideas. In non-Catholic churches, it seemed the only people, men and women alike, who were allowed full expression of their teaching, preaching, music, etc., gifts, were those in the “inner circle.”
I can’t recall how many sermons I heard on casting off the “pride of presumption” (to think you, a woman, are called to preach! To presume you, a long-haired eighteen year-old hippie with a gift for melody and lyrics were called to be a music minister! To think you, an elderly man sitting in the back in your wheelchair have a “word from the Lord” for the congregation!).
In my nearly forty years as a believer, a student of God’s Word, observing His ways and His people, I wonder if we haven’t presumed something of much greater import—and tragic in its consequences?
Consider a man, grief stricken as no other because of his belief in what he has to do: prepare an altar on which to sacrifice his son to God. And this man is absolutely sure this is his calling. And how his heart breaks for mourning the imminent loss of his dearly beloved…
Consider a God teaching that man—and in the telling, us—a greater truth about the real—and ONLY—sacrifice that will compensate Him for the evil shed abroad by those who, perverting free will, consort with murder, mayhem—and the suppression of God’s annointed.
But, say some, Abraham had to be willing to sacrifice Isaac, so we should be ready to sacrifice our “all,” too.
I would counter: have we not learned the lesson?
Have we not realized that giving up—or taking up, for that matter—OUR beloved, so to speak, our talents, gifts, and dreams, is not what pleases God? Do we not realize that no donning of medieval garb, rite and ritual, status in some inner circle of the anointed, or even so-called success in Christian industries could possibly appease or please Him?
If we would but look, over there, in the landscape of redemption, and see, really see, the only Sacrifice that can satisfy God for a wounded world. His. Own. Son. Jesus.
He provided His own Sacrifice. For us!
He does not demand our beloved; He gave His!
(For this I would—and did—become a Christian.)
Well, in a completely different sense, maybe some of us do need to set aside the guitar, the lesson plan, the word from the Lord for a while—to grow in skill, discernment, and/or affirmation, to develop the raw materials of talent God has placed within each of us. Nothing we would not also do in the secular realm.
But gaining maturity and skill through education and experience is an entirely different matter having nothing to do with presumptions about presumption in the spiritual realm.
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And so my encouragement to you today is this: beware of those who tell you to throw away or “die to” your gift, your talent, your lesson plan, your guitar, or your dream because of the notion already killed on the altar of Abraham: that what we do outside of grace can save us.
Rather, take up your gift today!
Learn, practice—preach in front of a mirror, if need be, for awhile, sing to the sunrise; write down the words God gives you in a notebook, embroider them on cloth, scribble them on sticky notes to embellish the walls! Or, like one local artist who wishes to remain anonymous, create beautifully illustrated signs such as “Be kind to one another” and “Forgive someone” and affix them to poles and fences alongside busy streets.
And as you rejoice in nurturing the desire of your heart, let God guide the formation and ultimate fruition of His ministry in you by the joy, encouragement, comfort, guidance, correction, and enrichment of His Word. Above all, stay in the Word.
And oh, if any of those dreaded “dark nights” advertised by the ancients lurk near to cloud your vision I guarantee you will probably be too busy about the Father’s business to mind them much.
Sing, preach, teach—rejoice—today!
Images from the public domain