On Sacrifice {A Family Tale}

The daddy leaves for church on a Sunday morning, alone this time because the two kids, who sing in different choirs, Children’s and Youth, are both sick, but not after cooking food, chicken adobo for the kids (their Sunday staple) and sinigang (fish and fish roe in sour broth with vegetables) for the mommy. The teenage daughter comes down and settles in bed beside her mom (who has been ailing these past 14 years), feverish and with a headache. The almost-ten son is just recovering from chicken pox. By God’s grace, the pustules are just few and they are now flattening down and drying out. Except for those, he is well and roams around the house as usual.

This magenta rose still needs some polishing to make it more sleek, but art, though it brings so much joy and is freeing, it could also be a sacrifice. That is, for an ailing artist like me.

This magenta rose still needs some polishing to make it more sleek, but art, though it brings so much joy and is freeing, it could also be a sacrifice. That is, for an ailing artist like me.

The maid left a few days ago, and although she didn’t want to leave, she had no choice. Her teenage middle son stopped going to school because he wanted his mother to be home.

So, the family is alone at present because the employment agencies are vacant. They have nobody to send. Most maids are now found abroad. Greener pastures.

All Sunday, the little boy tended to both mother and sister (who are stationed in bed) while the father worshiped the Lord in church which is from 10 in the morning to 5 in the afternoon.

Maybe already tired, twice he brought to the bedroom the pot of dish itself to serve food to the sick. But the mommy is so very thankful for the food he served. It definitely brought sustenance to their weak bodies.

Although the kids are used to assisting their sick mom and have both learned how to respond and act on her signs when she is so unwell, they haven’t completely learned to not complain. The teenager may not voice out her complaints, but often, her face says it all. And the little boy? He complains incessantly when he is not his sweet self. For when he is sweet (for he is a very sweet boy, indeed), he’s an angel.

The mother thinks they complain because they believe that they should not be serving like that. Their classmates in the international school that they attend are probably not required to serve. For the mom has yet to see a home in the village they live in (and she knows for certain in the homes of her kids’ classmates) which doesn’t employ a maid or two.

The kids grew up having maids around, but the mommy believes that it should not hinder her desire to train them to help with chores. Whenever the family finds itself maidless, the kids know how to sweep and mop the floors, clean their rooms and bathrooms, wash dishes, cook, tend to the dogs, and answer to their mother’s calls. But this is nothing compared to her training growing up.

Many years ago in the province where life was generally hard and maids were unheard of, everyone in the family, except the baby in the cradle, helped. She doesn’t fail to tell these stories to the kids, how the wooden and untiled floors must be waxed, then scrubbed with a coconut husk to make them shine, would take almost half a day and all your strength. How water must be fetched from the well across the street, for washing, laundry, and bathing. How they all washed their clothes by hand including bleaching the cloth diapers of the baby under the powerful sunshine, because Pampers and Huggies were just a figment of the imagination.

But she doesn’t think that they completely absorb these stories. They are so farfetched from the life they have now. They don’t know the hard life in the province.

And so the mother, while waiting out for good breathing and strength with tightly closed eyes, wish so much in her heart to teach and model to her children the virtue of sacrifice. To let them know that life in the Lord Jesus Christ is entirely different from the life in the world, especialy their friends’ and classmates’ lives. That it’s okay to be different as long as the reason for it is because they are children of God and followers of the Lord Jesus and His teachings. That serving others, even sacrificing for them, is a part and a virtue of the Christian life.

She wishes to teach all these and she frets in her spirit for she knows that her strength is not enough for lengthy Bible Study and discussion. But the desire will serve as a goal for her to rise up and serve her family, especially her children, in the ways of the Lord.

How she longs to teach them, as she also has recently learned, that serving and sacrificing are things not to be despised or shunned but to be embraced. She wants them to understand, as she is just beginning to understand it herself, that the serving and sacrificing life is not hidden from the eyes of God, and that, it will be rewarded, if not in the here and now, in eternity.

She knows that her family longs to travel, to see the world, like all families dream and strive of doing. She knows that her family looks at the world, at other families in their neighborhood and in school, and so desires to be like them. And she used to feel that way, too. But now she understands that, to truly follow Christ is to denounce the pleasures of the world. That even though they enjoy its offerings from time to time, it is not their life. It is not their way of life. But that their life is centered on the Lord Jesus Christ who, though He owned heaven and earth and is the King of kings, chose to be born in a smelly stable.

She understands it now, like the breaking of dawn through the pink-purple sky, that the cause of all her woes is because she desired things other than what the Lord is offering. 

She knows sacrifice, but because of wealth, she and her family dream of pleasurable and beautiful things. She knows that silent service, where God maybe the only audience, makes life deeply meaningful and rewarding. 

She remembers the days how her two caregivers (also nannies to the kids), both cousins of her husband, took care of her, bathed and fed her when she was too weak. On two separate occasions when one of them was bathing her, she touched their heads and expressed her gratitude and declared that their acts of love will be rewarded by the Lord.

And that is what she wants to teach her children, that sacrifice is always an act of love and nothing but. That a service when done grudgingly loses its helping and healing power and it only leaves heaviness in the spirit of the recipient. When a service is done with heavy heart, hand, and words, it is futile in the end. 

It is always this:

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. (1 Cor. 13:3)

And to always remember the Lord’s words:

And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’ (Mat. 25:40)

Every act of love, every sacrifice, we do it to Him and for Him.

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Sweet Scent Rising

A fellow Christian blogger came here to visit for the first time and left me a heartwarming message in the comments section. (I want my readers to know that she is not the only one who leaves me messages that bleed of blessings. There are definitely many others, like-minded, who bless me with their love, prayers, and encouraging words). She left a fragrant trail in her wake and I followed it all the way back to her blog like a bee finding its way to a meadow covered with flowers. And I wondered, “What if we lived a life like that, like a flower effusing a sweet scent to its surroundings? Maybe then the world would be a less selfish place to live in.”

This reminded me of Elisabeth Elliot’s book A Path Through Suffering which I read recently. Reading it, I was introduced to Lilias Trotter, an artist and missionary to Africa in the Victorian era. Ms. Elliot essentially based her discussions on Lilias Trotter’s sketches, essays, and analogies about suffering and the life of a flower, and to me, it was absolutely refreshing. One of my favorites in the book was this:

[God] will so govern the events of our lives, down to the smallest detail, as to provide for us the conditions which may make us fruitful. It is not for our sake but for the sake of others. The beauty of the flower is not for itself. It offers itself to God’s sunshine and rain, gives its fragrance to any who pass by, but it must wither and die before the fruit can be produced.

A Path Through Suffering, page 59

Gives its fragrance to any who pass by. To this I wrote a note at the margin: “Yes, like a sweet-smelling fragrance that goes up to God. Meaning, my life should be a blessing unto others. My complaints, my whinings, will not bless the people around me.”

I read the book at a time when I was feeling restless about my situation: prolonged illness and incapacity imprisoning me within the walls of our home. I wanted to really learn to “die to self” and to my fondest dreams and to bow down to the will and purposes of the Lord. Maybe then I would find true fulfilment and contentment.

I can think about two instances in the Bible where a fragrant offering is mentioned. The gifts the apostle Paul received to which he uttered: They are a sweet-smelling sacrifice that is acceptable and pleasing to God (part of Phil. 4:18). And Mary anointing Jesus’ feet with the very costly ointment of spikenard. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume (part of John 12:3).

I believe every fragrant offering comes with a costly sacrifice. Whether we are giving of ourselves or of ours, the sweet-smelling savor that rises up to God is one that stems from a genuine heart and a purely selfless motive. Sometimes, however small the act, like a word spoken in due season, it brings a huge amount of comfort to the recipient.

This makes me pondering about my own life and how I am walking with the Lord and serving Him through serving others. Am I giving off a sweet fragrance that fills the home, the Church, the community? Am I leaving a pleasant scent behind me in my associations and conversations with those who are still finding their way to the Lord Jesus Christ and true salvation? I know that there is still a lot of work to be done in me.

“The beauty of the flower is not for itself” wrote Ms. Elliot. Yes, our transformed lives are for the glory of the Lord and for His service, how we will live this life for Him and for others.

(Winner of my 3rd blogging anniversary giveaway is Lory Sy).

(Photo courtesy of my good friend Perla Frisberg of Malmo, Sweden, and edited at picmonkey.com).

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