Giving Up

slugIt was the first time I’d heard her story, and I quickly realized that I am a slug. Slugs should not be confused with the cute, furry creatures with long fingernails known as sloths. Slugs are slimy, belly crawlers that leave a trail of residue resembling the shirt sleeve of a kindergartner. It’s not a flattering comparison.

In listening to her story, I heard where I fell on the protagonist/antagonist spectrum, and I was ashamed. I had been *that* person, not the follower of Christ I claim to want to be. In short, I had been a passive jerk. But that’s not where the true conviction occurred.

She talked about a guy she had dated for almost three years, about how her identity was wrapped up in her relationship with, about how she felt like she needed to pull away from him in order to fully follow Christ. I broke up with a guy in high school after a youth retreat because he could’ve cared less about Jesus. It wasn’t very much of a sacrifice. Three years? That was a big deal. She gave him up to give Jesus her all. What an amazing act of worship!

At the end of her story, she challenged listeners to consider what God might be asking them to sacrifice, what might be holding us back from giving ourselves fully to Him.

Giving up is easy. You just… stop. I’ve quit grad school, teaching, ministry (at one point) and working out (on multiple occasions). At no point did I do those things as an act of worship. I gave those things up because it was easier. Has God ever asked me to lay something on the altar and walk away? Yes. Did I do it?

In the Bible, God asked people to give up difficult things. He asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Jesus asked Peter, James, John and Andrew to give up their careers and follow Him. He asked the Israelites to sacrifice a lamb to save their firstborn children in Egypt. Jesus asked a rich man to sell all he had and give it away to poor people. God asked Jonah to swallow his pride and bitterness and tell the people of Ninevah to repent.

Jonah said, “No.” Not with his lips, but by his actions. He ran the opposite direction, but in the end did exactly what God asked him to do in the first place. If he had obeyed the first time, he could have avoided becoming whale vomit.

For me, it was about more than disobedience. By refusing to lay my Precious on the altar, I missed an opportunity to worship. As He did with Jonah, God eventually got His way, but the process wasn’t pretty.

In contemplating what God might be asking me to give up, I thought back to the Precious. I even remember thinking at the time that God should be worthy of such a sacrifice, that there would be no greater act of worship I could express. But I refused. He got my Precious as an act of disciplining me instead of an act of me worshipping Him. If He is worthy at all, He is worthy of all.

pearlJesus told the parable of a man who found an incredibly valuable pearl. He went home and sold everything he had so he could buy the field where he had found the pearl. (Side note: how big did that pearl have to be for him to not be able to just pick it up and take it home with him?) When he found something of worth, he gave up everything else for it. Nothing else in his life mattered as much.

If you have the means and the opportunity to give you somebody you love the best present imaginable but you don’t do it, do you really love them?

Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.