Love and Sacrifice. Or Self-Donation?

“Five years or fifty, when people have sweated, suffered, and shed blood together, there can be no hesitation: If one calls, the other responds.”

This is how Laurie R. King’s heroine in the mystery novel “Justice Hall” explains why she is going off to help a friend in distress when she is really to tired to stir. And I have to agree: sacrifice is fertile mulch for love and commitment to grow. Yes, sacrifice even makes us better people – that’s what I took from musing on a quote from Gandhi (see my previous post).

I heard the phrase “self-donation” as another way of talking about sacrifice, and that seems like a better name for the phenomenon I’m addressing. “Self-donation” makes it clear that I’m not talking about a coercive or manipulative situation where there is an inequality of power.

I know that part of my love for my children arises out of the ways in which I gave of myself. The times my night sleep was interrupted and I dragged myself bleary-eyed and exhausted through the day. I love my daughter more because of the time I wiped her vomit off my face, clothes, the floor, the walls, my daughter and her sister, and both their beds – learning that the top bunk is a bad place for a child with the stomach flu.

It is only partly true that I gave freely. When the entire bedroom and its crying occupants were covered with vomit, I didn’t really have the option of walking away. (My husband was in a bus stuck in a snow drift somewhere on the other side of town.) 

This love is a mystery to me. It’s not because sacrifice gives me ownership. It’s not that my children owe me something now. It’s just that my heart is more deeply anchored in them. It helps to reveal another dimension of God’s love for me and what it means for me to love God and God’s creation. It deepens my worship.

This love is not a warm fuzzy feeling, but a sacred duty that draws me deeper into the heart of God. And I dissolve into God’s heart of love in the precise moment when I do something I would have preferred not to do, go to a place I’d have preferred not to go, love my enemy, and forgive someone who has done me wrong. 

Query for prayerful consideration:

When have I given of myself in a way that drew me into the heart of God?

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