On the Altar

When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.  Genesis 22:9

It’s been a year of celebration and excitement for my family.  My oldest graduated high school, my middle child has found purpose and success in new endeavors after challenging health issues, and my youngest child finished elementary school.  We didn’t arrive at the celebrations without going through some heartaches.  My older children decided about a year ago to leave a sport that had been near and dear to their hearts.  They knew the time, money, and effort that horseback riding required would not align with new interests, goals, and the realities of the future.  As my middle daughter and I drove away from their barn with their beautiful homemade tack trunk in the back of my truck we listened to a song on the radio that so perfectly stated what was happening in the lives of my kids.  The lyrics that hit us so hard were, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”  My daughter looked out the window and cried quietly and I pretended not to notice or cry too hard, myself.

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.  Doesn’t that sum up our lives?  I recently shared with a new friend the challenges of growing up children and sending them off into the world and how contrary that feels within my spirit.  God gave me my three beautiful daughters to protect and guard fiercely and now I’m supposed to let one go?  Is this some kind of joke?  My mother has warned me about the conflicting feelings for years and I chalked it up to cliché motherly advice, but as always, my mother is always right.  What is it about letting our kids go?

Thinking on this brought me to the story of Abraham and Isaac.  Abraham and Sarah waited a lifetime for a child of their own.  They went through enormous turmoil waiting on their bodies to produce their very own offspring, they made terrible mistakes along the way, repented and returned to God many times but were finally rewarded with their very own son.  They named him laughter because Sarah couldn’t believe this dream was finally coming true.  And then in Genesis 22, God does a very odd thing.  He calls to Abraham and tells him to take His one and only son to the land of Moriah and sacrifice his son on an altar.  What?!  I can only imagine Abraham thinking, “You mean to tell me this child I prayed for, waited for, delighted in, doted on is now just another sacrifice?”

We know that Abraham was faithful, took Isaac up that dreadful hill, bound him and that God ultimately provided a ram in the thicket as a substitute for Isaac which foreshadowed Christ as our substitute.  Whew!  But how and why was Abraham able to go through with it?  Isn’t that the kind of obedience, strength, and spiritual fortitude we all want?  Perhaps it’s because Abraham put himself on that altar first.  No, not physically, but spiritually.  From the time Abraham first heard from God that he was to leave his home and go to where God showed him, Abraham sacrificed what he thought his life would look like.  God made a covenant with Abraham through Abraham’s obedience to sacrifice and divide several creatures and Abraham watched God, Himself, pass between the pieces of sacrifice.  Abraham knew very early on that by putting his own life on God’s altar that God would be near and walk among the broken and bloodied parts.  This covenant would be for all of Abraham’s offspring…but only because Abraham did exactly what God told him to do and essentially give up the right to life as he thought it should be.

That’s exactly what parents do.  Parents give up much of their own rights in order to make a way for their children.  Mothers start by sharing their bodies and giving their life over to create a beautiful new human being.  Moms and Dads sacrifice many nights of sleep to rock, feed, and sing to their babies.  As kids get older, we spend hours in the car on the way to doctor’s appointments, recitals, tutors, counseling appointments…you name it.  And after all of that, we launch them.  It hurts and it’s scary and it doesn’t feel right.  Abraham probably thought all of these things as he bound Isaac and raised the knife. The only reason he was able to get that far is because he knew his God was faithful and because he already put his own wants and desires on God’s altar.

I know dropping my daughter off at college in August is going to be painful.  I’ve already told my husband to have tissues and chocolate ready for the ride home.  But as Abraham modeled to me, I know that my God is faithful and just and true to provide a way for my girl.  I know that I can place those years of parenting on the altar so that she can be set free to fulfill God’s purpose.