“Sacrifice is a part of life. It's supposed to be. It's not something to regret. It's something to aspire to.” (Mitch Albom, The Five People You Meet in Heaven)
Sacrifice comes in many forms throughout our lives - in small and large ways. Nobody seeks out sacrifice, but life and its many responsibilities present us with the challenge of sacrificing. Parents sacrifice for the well being and future hopes of their children. First responders sacrifice to save others on a daily basis, and many give the ultimate sacrifice of their lives. In the COVID-19 pandemic, doctors, nurses, and heath care staff sacrificed their own wellbeing and security to care for others. And there are so many people near us and around the world who are willing to sacrifice - for their family, for those in need, for justice, for peace, for the safety of their country, and so much more
Watch a video of one's person story of sacrifice.
We sacrifice because we love, but we love more deeply because we sacrificed. Sacrifice deepens our love for the cause or the person we’ve sacrificed for. In many ways, our lives are defined by our sacrifices which is why people discover their calling through sacrifice.
When have you been called to sacrifice? Who have you sacrificed for? How did the experience of sacrifice help you discover your calling?
Here are four stories of people willing to sacrifice for others - people who discovered their calling through sacrifice.
Maureen Biddinger-Grisius tells her story of courage in caring for the sick as a nurse on the front line of the coronavirus pandemic.
Amid the violence in Chicago, Jennifer Maddox is dedicated to giving young people on the South Side a safe space to learn, grow and succeed.
Through her "brilliant bus," Estella Pyfrom brings computer-based tutoring to low-income students in Florida.
Yolanda Fisher is a cafeteria worker at T.W. Brown Middle School in Dallas, Texas
I’m still going to work because we’re still feeding the kids—it’s not just kids that attend my school, it’s any child that stayed in Dallas and they need a meal. And if a family is really in need, we give the adults a meal as well. When it first started we would come in from 6:30 in the morning until 5 in the evening, working weekends and stuff, but now it’s leveling off. I’m loving it because I miss [the kids’] faces. You miss hearing their noise. We are feeding our community, and I love that.
I’m very nervous [about contracting the virus]. I have two grandchildren at home, aged 4 and 9. I could harm my family if I bring something home. That’s always in the back of my mind. We have gloves, we wash our hands, we have sanitizers. The mask I have I purchased on my own—the school didn’t have masks. They told us we could tie a bandana around our face, that that would work.
My daughter takes my temperature every day I come home. If she wants to spray me down with Lysol that’s fine, anything to alleviate her fears. My daughter at one point said, "Mom you’re older, older people are dying, you can stay home." But I was like nah. Jesus was a server. He served. That’s my purpose: to serve. That’s why I’ve been in this business 26 years. Most people look at us as a cafeteria lady, I look at it as a service. If there wasn’t an epidemic we would be still serving kids who probably would not get another meal until the next day. It’s an honor for us to serve those kids.
—As told to Alana Abramson (TIME https://time.com/collection/coronavirus-heroes/5816885/frontline-workers-coronavirus)
. . . . it is a paradox that what defines our lives is not ultimately our achievements or successes, but our sacrifices. I’ve preached over 300 funerals over the years. I’ve yet to have any family of the deceased suggest that I summarize their loved one’s net worth or assets, or the kind of home they lived in or the car they drove. Occasionally we have funerals where the greatest thing we celebrate about someone is their career achievements. Now there is room to celebrate career accomplishments at a funeral, but if that is all we have to celebrate, there is always something missing.
What defines real greatness is not career accomplishments or material acquisition. It’s not what we possess but what we give back that defines greatness. I think about a man who was a member of our church whose funeral I preached some years ago. In his career he fundamentally changed the industry he worked in. He had amazing accomplishments professionally. Personally he had travelled to amazing places. He’d played golf with famous people. But those were not the things we talked about in his service. What we celebrated were the stories of people whose lives he had touched, the ways that he had given to others, helped them, sacrificed for them, the investments he’d made in causes that mattered to him.
Often those we admire the most are those we say, “made the ultimate sacrifice”: firefighters, police officers, people who acted without thought for themselves to save or help someone else. But I also think of the sacrifices you’ve made routinely in your life. You are defined for your children by the sacrifices you made for them – sacrifices they don’t understand until they become adults. The depth of a friendship is defined by the sacrifices one is willing to make for your friends. You’ve been there at the hospital at midnight, or watched kids without being asked, or given yourself in a thousand other ways. And when it comes to our faith, the sacrifices we make both shape, and bear witness to our commitment to Christ. Jesus said, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). Self-denial and sacrifice are a part of the Christian life….
Rev. Adam Hamilton, "Joy in Sacrifice" (https://cor.org/leawood/gps-guide/joy-in-sacrifice)
God is continually calling us to new life - as we are. We may have thought that God calls people only once, for just one purpose. In reality, it is safe to say that God calls us many times throughout the seasons of our lives, and each call challenges us to stretch further than we might have anticipated or imagined.
How might you discover your calling through your experience of sacrifice or your willingness to sacrifice for others?
Watch the video, Discerning God's Call, by Jennifer Haworth and then use the reflection questions below to help you discern God's call.
Consider these three insights as you begin discerning how God is calling you at this time in your life.
1. Pay attention to your daily experience and what it stirs within you.
In the stuff of everyday experience - your hopes, your fears, your dreams, your routines - God is at work, inviting you to notice what brings you joy, what you're good at, and what others need you to do. Pay attention to where God is active in our life.
2. Reflect on what you notice, sorting and sifting in order to understand what is leading you to an abundant life and what is not.
Understanding develops through reflection, taking the time to see the patterns in your experience, and grasp their significance. While you can begin to notice and interpret God's action in our lives individually, if you want to hear deeply, see clearly, and choose wisely, trusted companions on the journey are essential.
3. Take loving action on what you have learned.
Discernment does not end with becoming aware of how your experiences are drawing you closer to or further away from God. You must eventually decide what you want to do with this knowledge. How will you act on what you've learned?
We grow into our distinctive callings if we are willing to become aware of God's movement in our lives, to reflect on this movement prayerfully alone and with others, and to take loving action on what we have learned.
Questions for Discernment
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
he leads me beside still waters;
he restores my soul.
He leads me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I fear no evil;
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff--
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
my whole life long.
(Psalm 23:1-6, NRSV)
The God who breathed this world alive
and sustains it day by day,
whose hands flung stars into space
and controls our destiny
says, "Do not be afraid, for I am with you."
The God who filled the ocean depths
and set tides on their way,
who caused mountains to be raised up
and rainbows to display
Says, "I have called you by name, you are mine."
The God who made the fertile earth
and seed within to sow,
whose artistry creates butterflies
and the early morning dew
says, "You are precious in my sight."
(From: Faith and Worship. https://www.faithandworship.com/prayers_Love.htm)
We are hoping that you will continue your journey - growing deeper in your sense of calling and finding ways to live your calling in everyday life. We want to offer our encouragement and support - and a few ideas to help.
#1. Engage in daily reflection and prayer.
Start using the Daily Reflection to conclude your day (at the end of Engage & Explore section). Try one or more of the following apps to incorporate prayer into your daily life.
3-Minute Retreats invite you to take a short prayer break right and spend some quiet time reflecting on a Scripture passage.
Pray As You Go is a daily prayer session, designed to go with you wherever you go, to help you pray whenever you find time, and lasting between ten and thirteen minutes with music, scripture and some questions for reflection.
Daily Prayer is an experiential app designed to develop long lasting spiritual rhythms of prayer and scripture reading. Join in prayer and read scripture in the morning, in the midday, in the evening, and/or in the late evening.
Abide is a Christian meditation app to stress less and sleep better. Find deep rest with our bedtime stories, as you listen to stories based off the Bible. Wake up with our daily meditations that will fuel your mind for the day ahead.
Soulspace meditation app has been created to help anchor your thoughts to the love of God and the way of Jesus. Soulspace seeks to rid the soul of fear and stress while filling it with truth and life. This creates the opportunity for true and lasting wholeness.
#2. Have a conversation with a "calling companion."
Find a significant trusted relationship - family member, friend, colleague - who can be your "calling companion." Find time for a cup of coffee together or video chat. Share the story of your journey toward discovering your calling. Share your highs and lows, good days and difficult ones, in discovering and living your calling. Turn to your calling companion regularly for support and encouragement.
#3. Grow through reading about calling.
We have selected several books to deepen your understanding of calling and vocation. Each book offers practical ideas for living your calling now and into the future. Go to our Resource page for the description of each book.
#4. Find a support group of people who share your experience of sacrifice.
There are groups in your community that you can join to provide support, where you can share your story and experiences of sacrificing for others. Check out support groups sponsored by local religious congregations, community organizations, schools, etc. You can find (and build) local support groups by using the MeetUp website and app to meet new people, learn new things, find support, and pursue your passions with others.
#5. Find support and encouragement in a local faith community.
We want to encourage you to consider connecting to a local faith community that can support you in discovering and living your calling today. Congregations are great places to find a course, attend a presentation, participate in a small group study or a support group, engage in service to the community and world, and, of course, worship with a community of people.
To make it easier to find a faith community in your area we have developed a list of churches with a link to their website so you can learn more about their ministries, and another link to what they are doing to support people in discovering and living their callings.
You find a welcome home in a faith community that wants to support you and help you live your calling at this time in life.
Go to All Called Connect.