“Abraham you called to me, I am ready, Lord, what do you want of me? Take your son, your only son, your joy above all things, you shall journey up the mountain to the place of which I speak, you shall lay him on the altar, you shall give him back to me.”
I have often found it to be unfair that the Lord tends to ask us to give up the very things we value most in life, the things in which we find the most joy. Doesn’t He want us to be happy? Aren’t we supposed to be joyful? Aren’t these good things which the Lord Himself has given us? Where is the justice? How are we to reconcile these requests with a good and loving God who, we are told, wants us to be eternally happy? I’m sure the same questions ran through Abraham’s mind when the Lord asked him to sacrifice his only son, the son he had prayed for so desperately and who the Lord had given him through a miraculous event. How could it possibly have made sense to him to kill Isaac? Isaac was the Lord’s greatest gift to Abraham, so why would God take him back?
The answer, I think, lies in the fact that Isaac was a gift. That fact makes his sacrifice seem senseless ,but also provides the sense, the answer to the questions of justice. Maybe the Lord was trying to help Abraham appreciate the gift of Isaac’s existence. Maybe the Lord was trying to show Abraham that a gift is not an end in itself, but points rather to the giver of the gift- to God as the source of Abraham’s joy and salvation. Even though Isaac may have been the greatest gift Abraham could ever have imagined, the Lord still needed Abraham to know that the gift of Isaac was more than an answer to a desperate prayer. It was a revelation of the goodness of God and the true joy which is found in Him alone.
So many times in my own life I feel the pain of Abraham: I feel called to give up the thing which brings me joy. My prayer is answered, I receive that for which I have asked, and yet I feel the Lord calling me give it up again. It’s frustrating and painful. It makes me question and doubt. It makes me want to grab the gift I’ve been given, the source of my joy, and run away. I don’t want to have to give up the things that make me happy. But then a bigger question creeps into my mind: do they really make me happy? The question is answered before I even finish asking: NO! And therein lies the lesson in love which the Lord teaches us in asking that we give back to Him all that He has given to us. Sometimes we need to be willing to give up not just the sinful things to which we are so attached, but also the very gifts the Lord has given us to remind us that the purpose of the gift is to reveal to us the love of the Father. When we get so attached to the gifts that we come to think they are what bring us joy, then it’s time to climb the mountain with Abraham and be ready to sacrifice what we have been given.
The gifts are about the Gift-giver. Our joy does not lie in what we have been given alone, but rather in Who has given us these gifts. So let us always been ready to make a return to the Lord, recognizing His goodness and love. Let us lay all we have and all we have been given at the foot of the Cross, ready to serve the One who served us first, ready to offer ourselves with Him to the Father.