I need to sacrifice something to God, and I don’t want to.

After months of trying to sell our house, we signed the closing documents a few weeks ago. My wife and I have painstakingly pursued our hunt for a new home. For me, it’s been more of a frantic, obsessive, compulsive quest. We’ve exhaustively examined hundreds of homes, but only one fit our unique criteria for layout and land-use.

Except this house is forty minutes from our community and we wanted a house a mere ten.

That dreamhouse absorbs my mind. I think about it at night. I imagine daily life with family or hosting retreats on hearing God. And I talk about it too much. (Just ask my friends.)

In my obsession with this aspiration, I begin to doubt God’s goodness (or his power), and I think ill-thoughts of my wife (Why can’t she love this dreamhouse as I do?).

I think God wants me to sacrifice something. Because this preoccupation is leading me into evil.

Taking Matters into Our Own Hands

Scripture is filled with people trying to help God do his job:

  • Abraham and Sarah birth Ishmael because God wasn’t moving fast enough. And there has been bloodshed ever since between the generations of those two sons.
  • Moses kills an Egyptian (murder!) when he spots an injustice. And he spends the next forty years in the wilderness.
  • When the priest Samuel is late to a worship service, King Saul performs the service himself. And he loses his kingdom.

Our compulsion to do great things for God creates obstacles to God doing great things for us.

Our desires themselves may not be bad; but compulsions lead to evil deeds of our own at the expense of looking to the deeds of God. (Just ask the thousands of children who turn against Christianity because their parents try too hard to raise perfect kids.)

It Ain’t Easy

To sacrifice begins with a one-time decision; then we must re-make it over and over again. My decision keeps haunting me. I sobbed when I told my wife I need to hold a funeral for that dream. But even in my weeping, I secretly wondered, “What if my sorrow changes her mind!

God save me from myself. (Especially save my wife from my maneuverings!)

Yesterday my daily-psalm reading led me to, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps. 37:4). In a heartbeat, I thought, “If I delight myself in God, he will give me that dreamhouse.”

It’s impossible to delight in God in order to get what we really want, because what we “really want” is the true delight of our heart. That house is my real delight. I’m using God as an means.

This morning I read about Abraham sacrificing Isaac and God giving Isaac back. I thought, “Maybe if I surrender this house to God, then he’ll ….”

Need I elaborate?

Sacrifice

God asked Abraham to make two sacrifices, first the “child of the flesh” Ishmael, and finally the “child of the promise” Isaac. I don’t know which my dreamhouse is: of the flesh or of the promise. But only one son came back to Abraham. Abraham never again saw the other.

I think God is calling me to sacrifice, not my dream but to sacrifice my right to myself, to hold a funeral for all the ways I know what I need. Because I don’t know. My challenge is not to surrender a home, idea, or a hope; but to lay down my “rights” on the altar and say, “Your will be done.”

Call me Ishmael. Or call me Isaac. (Just don’t call me obsessive Captain Ahab.)

Sam

P. S. Despite our obsessive desires, our single greatest need is an intimate relationship with God; and relationship means communication. To nurture that conversational relationship with your Father, I suggest you read Hearing God in Conversation.

After all, what did God save us for? To know him personally.

I attended a magnet high school in Detroit, Michigan. Cass Tech was a university preparatory school that emphasized science and the arts. One night before an art showing, a vandal broke in, defaced multiple paintings, and took a hammer to dozens of sculptures.

Imagine the angry anguish of the victims: the lost hours of creativity, the shattered dreams of masterpieces. But the hours and dreams weren’t the victim’s greatest griefs. As one vandalized friend said to me, “It was as if the thugs had sledgehammered me!”

Because all art is made in the image of its creator.

In that sense, all of creation reflects God: the beauty of the sunset and the glory of a half moon, snowcapped mountains and whitecapped oceans, all mirror the glory of God.

However, it was only after God made all of nature that he said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” The deepest reflection of God involves more than mere creation.

Simple or Profound

The Hebrew word for “image” (when God talks of creating humanity) originally meant shadow or reflection. It required the sun. It means that God is the sun and we are moons. To image God, we need the brightness of God to shine on us, and then ultimately through us.

In the simplest sense of imaging God, cabbages and clams—as well as Mother Theresa and Judas Iscariot—belong to general creation: all reflect the great Artist, to some degree.

But in the profoundest sense, God lets us choose to image him or not; to decide to be moons rather than suns. Adam and Eve chose personal glory; they wanted to be the light not the mirror.

Deism

Many thought leaders of the Enlightenment believed in a theology called deism. Deism says God created the world, set it spinning like a child’s toy top, and he sat back to watch what would happen. It says God refuses to intervene in the affairs of the world.

It’s why Thomas Jefferson cut out the supernatural from the Bible, because he believed God no longer acts today. Jefferson liked the morals of Jesus, but he didn’t like the miracles of Jesus.

Simple imaging of God can be like deism. We don’t need him anymore. He made us—so we’re in his likeness—and we continue to reflect him, without his help. Just ask any snail.

But the profoundest meaning requires God’s activity in us today. It requires a humanity who will accept our need for God himself to do his work through us. It means we choose his glory over ours, to say, “Unless the Lord builds the house, its workers labor in vain” (Ps. 127:1).

The Humility of Imaging God

King Saul lost his kingdom when he “builds a monument in his own honor.” God says to him, “You started out thinking little of yourself, and that was good; but now you are grabbing for your own honor.” King Saul wanted to be the painter not the painting.

The profoundest reflection of God requires humility: we no longer live to create our own legacy—like Adam and Saul. But that is hard to do. Our sinful flesh wants others to respect us, accept our ideas, and like our Facebook posts. We crave a monument in our honor.

We grasp for all the glory we can get. And in the very act of grabbing, we vandalize the profoundest likeness of God. In our quest for stardom, we deface God’s paintings and hammer his sculptures.

Let’s abandon our pursuit of personal legacy: it’s more glorious to be the moon than a snail.

Sam

P. S. To fully image and glorify God, we need a deep, intimate connection with him. We need a divine dialogue.

God is the good Father who wants to enter into that divine dialogue with each one of his kids. To grow in that conversational connection with him, please watch the video bel0w (Is hearing God normal?), and buy a copy of Hearing God in Conversation.