“Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God’s mercy to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice holy and pleasing to God. This is your spiritual act of worship.” Romans 12:1
I memorized those words about 10 years ago as a college freshmen. I was naiive. I was stupid. I was biblically illiterate. But I believed those words then, and I live by them today. In my own application to Paul’s words I recognize then and now that it’s not my life anymore… I have offered it as a sacrifice. All of it. My devotion to my calling, the wasting of my material future and physical life, is a spiritual act of worship.
Again this month we are short financially. Grad school came calling. Preschool came calling. Uncle Sam gets his cut in a few days. A combination of expected and unexpected expenses draws a little more money from savings to checking in a constant game of robbing Peter to pay Paul. Life’s expenses are again expensive. Each time this happens to me I start to reminisce about what life could have been like for Kristen and Megan and Paul. Had we stayed on the path of corporate success in Chicago we wouldn’t have this to worry about. The bills always got paid in full. There was always a little extra at the end of the month. We could always surprise someone with a special gift. Vacation? No problem. New tires? How about the best? New clothes? Why not. Yet in the same moments I recall the emptiness I had as I laid in bed at night, longing for my life to be wasted for something more important then getting richer… or more precisely, helping rich people get richer.
In times like this, I am haunted by something a cousin accused me of two Thanksgiving’s ago. She looked across the couch and said, “Leaving a successful career behind to chase a dream comes at the cost our your daughter. You’re doing something to her that isn’t fair, you’re hurting her future without her say in the matter.” You know what? She was right. We made a choice that was a bad choice for Megan. It was not done in her self-interest. The decision we made for her was part of that promise I made… My life is a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God. She’s just along for the ride.
I count my life lost. It’s not mine to save since I gave it away as an act of worship. When I internalized that passage year’s ago it had no idealistic expiration date. There may be some tricky way to get out of it in the Greek language, but I meant it to be an everlasting understanding between an undeserving punk and a holy God. I have sacrificed my life in view of God’s mercy He expressed to me. He gave me a life eternally, the least I can do is give a life back to Him that is terminal. People want to talk about self worth… Try this on. Total up the bones, fat, water and other stuff and sell it. How much do you think you’d fetch? $100? $50? Maybe $5?
Yet satisfaction does not come to me when I cannot pay the bills. This haunts me. As a man and father it makes me feel somehow inadequate. Selfishly I desire to make this monthly shortfall known so that it can be corrected. At the same time I wrestle knowing that we live a lifestyle that is far above my ministry peers! How dare I ask for more money when compatriots in student ministry make half or a third of what I bring home? How dare I want a little bit of comfort when they wait in line for food stamps or WIC? Who am I? So… I wait. I acknowledge it as a struggle and a worry. And as a spiritual act of worship, I move on. I give this away. It’s not worth me getting distracted over. The thing I have given my life to is not worth these worries as a distraction. I have work to do.
I read about so much “angst” and people who wish that they were dead. They too want to give their lives away. They are willing to die and be separated from God forever to overcome the pain they have in this life. My angst is not the same. There comes with my miniscule displeasure the promises of better things to come. While I am surrounded by my own prosperity I still count it all crap. If I did not exist, 99% of the treasures we have holed up would be thrown in the dumpster. So this may be a negative sounding rant, but instead it is just a gut check for me… Am I still online with “giving myself away?” Perhaps… We shall see.