Sunday, April 15, 2007

My Isaac

I've never been married. There are times when that's ok, and there are times when it's not. Lately, it's not been ok, and I've been really struggling with this whole singleness thing. I gotta admit, I really don't like being single. Let me rephrase that: I'm not always content with being single. I admire other singles who have learned to be content, but I'm just not there yet.

Ever since I can remember, I've always wanted to be married. I came close years ago with my daughter's father, but I know marrying him would've been a huge mistake. So I chose to stay single for what I thought would be a short time. And now here I am 16 years later, at age 39 and still not married. And not dating. And I'm wondering, 'What is wrong with this picture?' Almost all of my friends are either married or in serious relationships. I haven't even been on a date since November--and that was the first one I'd been on in many years. When my daughter became ill, I put dating totally out of my mind; I needed to concentrate on getting her well. But now that she's on the road to recovery, my single status nags at me.

I guess I could accept my single state if I didn't believe that God has someone for me. I believe that with all my heart, and I've spent the last maybe 10 years preparing myself--or at least trying to. My problem is that I am impatient. I'm like the kid at Christmas; I can't wait to open my gifts. Lately, I've been praying about being single. 'Why, God? What's the matter with me? Why hasn't this happened yet? What am I doing wrong?' He didn't directly answer my questions, instead He gave me something to ponder: 'Your desire to marry needs to be your Isaac.' So not what I wanted to hear.

For those unfamiliar with the Isaac story, it's one of the most profound stories in the Bible. In the book of Genesis, we're shown a special friendship that God has with a man named Abram. Abram lives in a pagan society, yet he serves and has a unique friendship with The One True God. God tells Abram a few things: 1) Abram will be the father of many nations, 2) through Abram, God will establish a covenant with the world, 3) God would give Abram’s descendents the land of Canaan, 4) God changed Abram's name, which means 'Father of one' to Abraham--'Father of many'. Sounds pretty cool except there's a couple of teeny little issues. For one thing, Abraham is 99 when God tells him this, and his wife Sarai (name changed to Sarah) is nearly 90 and barren. But the cool thing about Abraham is even though he was incredulous, he believed that God would bless him with a son.

And God did, but it was about 19 years later. Along the way, Abraham and Sarah tried to 'help' God by basically getting a surrogate to give Abraham a son, Ishmael. Not such a great idea. In fact, it was a very bad idea; one with far reaching repercussions that we in the modern age are still dealing with. At any rate, God specifically told Abraham that Sarah would have a baby boy. Isaac was the son God promised Abraham--through this son and his descendents, God would establish his covenant with the world. While Abraham loved Ishmael, Isaac was the Promised Son. Isaac was the miracle baby. At this point, the story gets interesting. God tests Abraham:

1 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, "Abraham!"
"Here I am," he replied.

2 Then God said, "Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about." Gen 22:1-2 NIV

Yikes! Did we read that right? God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, his beloved son--the PROMISED son? Yes, God wanted Abraham to sacrifice his son. The amazing part of this story--even moreso than Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his only son; even moreso than Isaac's willingness to be sacrificed; even moreso than the ram in the bush--is that this story serves as a foreshadowing of Christ's redemptive act on the cross. If that doesn't give you goosebumps, I don't know what will. I've always understood that verse in context to Christ's death on the cross, and subsequent resurrection. What was harder for me was putting it into context of my own life. What exactly is God saying to me? I am a person who loves to know what words mean, and I felt to understand sacrifice, I needed to look the word up. Turns out there are several meanings:

1: an act of offering to a deity something precious; especially : the killing of a victim on an altar
2 : something offered in sacrifice
3 a : destruction or surrender of something for the sake of something else b : something given up or lost

4. Forfeiture of something highly valued for the sake of one considered to have a greater value or claim.
a. Something so forfeited.
a. Relinquishment of something at less than its presumed value.
b. Something so relinquished.

The one that caught my attention was number 4: 'Forfeiture of something highly valued for the sake of one considered to have a greater value or claim.' There is so much to consider in that one definition. In plain English it means to give up something valuable for something even more valuable. Wow. In thinking of salvation, Christ put on humanity, then gave up his life for ours; giving us redemption. Phillipians 2:5-8 says,

'5Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

6Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:

7But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

8And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.' NIV

So humbling. Christ gave up the majesty of glory to come in human form to save me. He gave his very life for me--what will I give up for him? Lately, I’ve been thinking about marriage all the time. It has, in fact, become an idol of sorts. I don’t purposely idolize marriage, but like that kid at Christmas, I am so giddy with the anticipation of receiving my gift, my promised gift, that it’s all I can do to not think about it.

But, I believe God wants to know from me—do I want the gift more than the Giver? Will I love the gift more than the Giver? As a parent, I can totally understand this. I love my daughter, and I give her the things she needs. There are times, though, when I want to give her special things as a reward for a job well done, or sometimes because I know she’ll appreciate the gift. But many times I give her things simply because I love her and I love to see the excitement on her face when I give her something she’s really wanted, but didn't expect to get.

My daughter is almost 16 and will be driving soon (a real nightmare for me). She’s already asked me for a car. Suppose I give her a car, and she is so excited, jumping up and down with joy. ‘Oh, thank you Mom! It’s just what I wanted! I’m so happy!’, she’d exclaim. That would be wonderful, right? Of course it would. But let’s suppose that eventually she begins to only think of the car. She’s tooling around town everywhere in the car all day and all night. She won’t let me ride in the car—won’t even let me touch it. The car becomes her number one and only concern. How would I feel about that? What will happen with our relationship? What do you think I would do with the car?

I think in some way, that’s the point God is trying to make with me. God wants to give us gifts. Psalms 21:2,6 says:

2You have granted him the desire of his heart and have not withheld the request of his lips. Selah

6 Surely you have granted him eternal blessings and made him glad with the joy of your presence.

Further, Psalms 37:4 says, ‘Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.’ NIV. God wants to bless us; he just doesn’t want the blessing to take his place in our hearts. He is also a jealous God—he must be number one in our lives.

'Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.' Exodus 34:14. It is a slap in God’s face for us to cherish the blessings that he’s given us, more than we cherish him.

That’s not what I want. I truly desire to make God my first priority every day. And sadly, I don’t always do that. I get carried away with the cares of life, and my own wants and desires. My prayer is that I let nothing—not a job, man, money, family—anything come before my God. Even if that means sacrificing my own heart’s desires for the sake of the Cross.

No comments: