My children are gatherers, especially when outside. For years I have been accepting offerings of broken sticks, pieces of acorns, squashed dandelions, fragile leaves and the occasional bug. Some gifts are beautiful in their own way, but most are broken, perishable and often a little sad. The offerings themselves are not what I love. The thoughtful hearts and sincere love is what I cherish, much like our Father in heaven.
Romans 12:1 says “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God- this is your spiritual act of worship.” My spiritual act of worship, my broken and grief ridden body is to be offered to the Lord.
Life looks different for us right now, but we aren’t the only ones. The ways in which I was used to serving the Lord, my community and even my family has drastically changed in the last couple of months. There are many reasons for that, though grief is at the top of the list. Everyday my emotions are different, even though most days look the same. We are also in the midst of societal changes. Church, work, school and life in general have taken on a vastly different appearance since the pandemic swept over us. So what do I gather and what do I offer the Lord? I offer what I have, what He has already given me.
So what do I gather and what do I offer the Lord? I offer what I have.
Some days all that I have to offer is lament. A few days ago, while the kids were resting quietly in their rooms, I sat on the couch unable to control my tears and sobs. I was then overcome with frustration, because nothing specifically seemed to have pushed me into a new sea of sorrow. But here I sat, feeling completely out of control, helpless against emotions and broken. I knew I needed to offer this to the Lord, but I couldn’t even find words for my own personal lament. So I opened the Bible and allowed it’s words to become my own.
I read aloud Job 16:6 which says, “Yet if I speak, my pain is not relieved; and if I refrain, it does not go away. Surely, O God, you have worn me out; you have devastated my entire household.” I continued, Job 16:16 “My face is red with weeping, deep shadows ring my eyes; yet my hands have been free of violence and my prayer is pure.” Job 17:7 “My eyes have grown dim with grief; my whole frame is but a shadow.” Job 17:11 “My days have passed, my plans are shattered, and so are the desires of my heart.” The words of Job became my own and they were honest. I then finished my lament by reading Psalm 116:1-2 “I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.” That was the offering I could give. It was fragile and it was broken, but it was also sincere and filled with trust in the Lord.
The words of Job became my own and they were honest.
Some days I press on to the glory of God, and monotonous tasks become my living sacrifice. I recently told my parents that while it was difficult to find the desire or energy to perform daily tasks, I was also grateful for them. Three weeks after my daughter’s death, our world went into quarantine. A week prior to social isolation, if I had been falling behind with laundry, I could have called forty different women and they would have been at our home to take care of all of our needs. Suddenly I was devoid of the privilege of community inside our home, offering tangible help. In ways, this has been a blessing. I have been given the gift of motherhood and there are still precious souls that reside in my home who are in need of care. I am also a wife, daughter and friend. I have people to care for, laundry to be cleaned, meals to be cooked, school to be taught and other sometimes monotonous tasks to be performed. There is time for grief, but there is not a time for self pity.
There is time for grief, but there is not a time for self pity.
There is an interesting story in the middle of Ezekiel. In Ezekiel 24 we read the account of the death of Ezekiel’s wife. The Lord tells Ezekiel that “the delight of Ezekiel’s eyes”, his wife, is about to be taken away. The Lord also tells Ezekiel that he will not be given the right to typical mourning practices. Ezekiel says in verse 18, “So I spoke to the people in the morning, and in the evening my wife died. The next morning I did as I had been commanded.” I realize Ezekiel’s story is not the same as mine. The Lord clearly commanded Ezekiel to refrain from mourning, which is unique and not necessarily a pattern for believers (see John 11:35 and Acts 8:2). I do think that I have to be careful to guard against self pity and remember the things which God has called me to do. Sometimes the offering I can give is working to the glory of God and doing the next thing. It is an offering that is ordinary and straightforward.
Some days, even in the midst of sorrow and grief, I can offer true thanksgiving. Our perspective was eternally altered on the evening of February 24th. Things I once easily took for granted, I now recognize as good gifts from the Father. The good news of the gospel is enough to merit thanksgiving for all time. The unmerited blessings of family, friends, community, health, shelter and sustenance sparks praise. The fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control is cause for gratitude daily.
Psalm 40:1-3 says “I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.” God has given us a new song. Sometimes it is a melodious orchestration of praise and sometimes it is a monotone hum of recognition. But we offer it back, beautiful or broken, to the Lord.
We offer it back, beautiful or broken, to the Lord.
I can only offer back what God has already given me. In the eyes of my heavenly Father, I’m sure that most of my offerings appear much like the fragile leaves and squashed dandelions from my children. Fragile, broken and a little sad. Thankfully, God sees the heart. I rejoice that I can give God my sincere, imperfect body as a living sacrifice and know it is pleasing to him. So I give what I have and know that God can redeem even my broken offerings.