There is a story in the Old Testament about a man named Abraham. Abraham and his wife wanted to have a child, but Sarah was barren. Then, long after the years of normal child-rearing were over, God answered their prayer. And they had a son; his name was Isaac. Abraham became a father at the age of 100! I know right?
Several years later, God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son as an offering to Him. I know. It’s a crazy story. We tell ourselves that God doesn’t do child sacrifice…and you are right. He doesn’t! It’s a tough story to understand because of the time frame when it was written. In that culture, during that era, religions in the ancient near east often practiced child sacrifice. The original readers of that story would not have been surprised that God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, even if it was his only son. In the middle of the story there is a plot twist. As Abraham lifts his hand to sacrifice his son, God stops him.
The original readers would have been astonished that God…stopped him. We are astonished that God…asked him. And we miss the point of the story.
Several years ago (maybe 7 now), I was exhausted from serving in ministry. I was at a crossroads and I needed some time to think through if this was where God wanted me to be. I took a week off to pray, cry, meditate, and beg God to let me out. He sent me back.
My first day back, I received a call from a young lady I had been meeting with occasionally. She had given birth the day before to a beautiful baby girl. However, she was in a difficult, abusive relationship. And she knew the best thing for this little girl was to give her up for adoption. Darlene* had already chosen adoptive parents and they were waiting down the hall. But there was a problem. Darlene had asked to hold her baby…just once. And now she couldn’t let her go.
And we dedicated Chloe to God
I arrived at the hospital and Darlene was seated cross-legged on her bed with Chloe swaddled in her arms. Tears ran down her face and she pleaded with me to help her. I realized that all Darlene needed was a friend. She needed someone to hug her and tell her she was a good mom. She needed to know that whatever she decided, God would walk with her through it.
So we dedicated Chloe to God.
The moment I took Chloe in my arms, something changed in me. I discovered the true essense of empathy. I held her close to me and looked into her sweet eyes. I smelled her new baby smell. And I felt the warmth of her body in my arms. Then I walked over to the social worker and placed Chloe in her arms. I might as well have given my own child away. The pain was just as real.
The social worker asked me what I had done to change Darlene’s mind. I don’t know for sure…really. I had reminded Darlene that through adoption she was being like Jesus. She was sacrificing her life so that Chloe would have abundant life. Like Abraham, she would lay her Isaac down as an offering to God. For Darlene, however, God didn’t stop her. Chloe is with her new family and she is thriving.
All of us will be asked to lay our Isaac down as an offering to God. We miss the point of Abraham’s story and we miss the point of Darlene’s story. We say “why would God ask for a sacrifice”? We say “why did or didn’t God stop it from happening”? When the whole time God wants us to understand that He is there with us. He wants to know us. He wants to help us. He wants to hold our hand. He wants to be Present in our lives. And the only way God can be Present is if we lay our Isaac down and let Him.
What is God asking you to lay down? Will you wake up and let Him be Present? He is waiting for you to lay your Isaac down.