My Son, A Burnt Offering

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“There can be no doubt that this possessive clinging to things is one of the most harmful habits in life… we are often hindered from giving up our treasures to the Lord out of fear for their safety.” A.W. Tozer

I often write about the journey. Because that’s just what I’m on. And not just me, but each one of us is on a pilgrimage of sorts… a spiritual trek through a temporary land. But personally, my journey doesn’t always feel so spiritual. For the temporal is what lies before me, swallowing me whole as the eternal dims in my view. It’s the tangible that I touch, and smell, and hear and taste. And so, what’s right before my eyes feels the most real to me. This is what I cling to. The things I can hold.

This week, I found myself facing something yet one more time. Something I don’t like to think about at all. But sometimes, it consumes me. Every fiber of my being is filled with terror. It’s the thought of losing my child. My son. My one and only son, whom I love. The fear began the day he was born.

I’m sure most moms face this fear, but with me, I think mine’s a bit irrational. Some may even say I’m high-strung. See, after my child was born, I didn’t know what to do with myself and couldn’t relax. I found myself creeping to his crib more than once a night to hear the sound of his breathing and to feel the rise and fall of his chest. And the poor guy couldn’t sleep. Probably because I used a sleep positioner so he couldn’t budge an inch. No, I didn’t want him to move at all.

Not only that, no blankets were allowed for some time. The thought of SIDS overwhelmed me, so I used a zip on blanket. Finally, when I relented and allowed a real blanket to share his crib, it had to be wrapped around him super snug, to the armpits only, and inside the positioner. I didn’t want it to come loose. See, I tried to bind my son and keep him from movement in hopes of warding off harm.

And then there was the video monitor. That was a necessity for I wanted to lay eyes on him anywhere, anytime. It comforted me to see him. All of this reassured me. The tangible. I’d touch him and hear him and hold him. Attached is the word I’d use. I was so attached to my son. And over time, he became attached to me.

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This week, it was an article on dry-drowning that tripped me up. And my goodness, I’ve traveled so far with this issue. I thought I was over and done with it. And yet, I read about a little one dying hours after being at a water hole. This horrified me. Immediately, my thoughts jumped to this coming summer… a future lake vacation and later, summer camp. My son will visit a lake two times. And water happens to be one of my greatest fears. I swim minimally so this is something I project onto my son. I fear for him when it comes to water play. And two days ago, the reality of dry-drowning (I won’t go into details) had me in a sheer panic. So, worry utterly consumed me. The article was before my eyes and tangible. It was real. And so, as I read the words, I became filled with fear and dread. Fear of losing what’s so important to me. My son. My one and only boy child, whom I love.

Amazing how God works. See, I read that scary article about dry-drowning but it was later that morning when I read something else. The second chapter A.W. Tozer’s book, The Pursuit of God, is called The Blessedness of Possessing Nothing. And within those pages, Tozer visited the story of Abraham and Isaac. So, just hours after reading about a child dying, God led me to this very issue through the words of Tozer. And through His very own words located in Genesis 22. Which happens to be a chapter in the Bible I try to avoid. Because it scares me.

One day, God called out to Abraham with instructions. I wonder if he would have replied so readily if he knew what God was going to say. For on the heels of answering God, “Here I am,” Abraham was told to sacrifice his son. And this puts chills down my spine. For God called out, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.” And although it’s not mentioned in Genesis, Tozer brings to mind the struggle Abraham must have gone through. He remarked on what a wrestling match it must have been between Abraham and God. And this is what brings tears to my eyes.

Do you think Abraham argued with God? Do you think he pleaded as Jesus did in the garden before He Himself was sacrificed? Did Abraham utter, “If possible, take this cup from me. But nevertheless, Your will be done and not my own?” How he must have writhed in agony and dreaded the following morning when he was to set off on a journey. Three days it took to reach the designated spot. Did each footstep fall heavier and heavier? Finally, the time arrived. And Abraham’s words to his fellow journeyers? “Stay here with the donkey. The boy and I will go over there to worship; then we’ll come back to you.” Worship. That’s what Abraham said.

Two days ago, I contemplated Abraham’s words. He was leading his child to an altar. His child was to be the sacrifice. And this is what he called worship. Abraham worshiped God in taking wood and laying it on the very back of the boy who was to be slain. The very picture of Jesus who, on His own journey to sacrifice, had to carry His own wood. Abraham carried the fire and the knife and walked on with his son to do the unthinkable. How Abraham must have inwardly wept when Isaac looked up at his daddy with trusting eyes… “My father.” In reply, “Here I am, my son.” The boy made inquiry… “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Where is the lamb? Oh, Abraham’s heartbreak for he was staring right at the little lamb. How trusting Abraham must have been as he uttered, “God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And that He did years and years later in offering up His own Son. His one and only in whom He loved.

The two walked on to the place God told of, and there, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood. He bound his son Isaac and placed him on the altar on top of the wood. Do you think Abraham looked into his son’s eyes as he did so? Were they filled with tears? Were Isaacs? How could Abraham have had the strength to reach for that knife? I don’t know that I could have. I just don’t. But Abraham did. He reached out for it in order to slay his son. And this act… this offering of his son, His one and only son Isaac, whom he loved, is what he meant when he said they were going to worship.

No, it’s no accident I read about dry-drowning and the story of Abraham and Isaac in one day. Because through two separate sources, something was brought to the forefront of my heart and mind. See, I thought I already dealt with the irrational fear. Over and done with. Finished. But Tuesday morning, I knew a remnant remained within. So, on the floor of my bathroom I cried out and prayed to the God who hears. For I saw what God wanted me to… the blessedness of possessing nothing.

Abraham’s act highlighted this lack of possession. For in offering his son, he was releasing the hold he had on Isaac. Or rather, the hold Isaac had on him. See, Isaac had become too much of his reality. Abraham saw him daily. He touched and smelled and heard and held his son. And because he had been holding to him for so long, this is what Abraham held the tightest. Isaac replaced God. And so, God said stop. Give what you hold dearest to me. And this is what God says to me.

It’s true, I cling to my child. Always have. I’m over-protective. Because I think my overbearing manner will protect him. I think that if I’m with him, I can keep him safe. My eyes and hands on him. Touching him. Directing him. But what I know to be true is that the more I try to possess my son – to own him and keep him – the more I am possessed by him. My little one owns me in that he fills my thoughts. My heart. And I cannot bear the thought of losing him. Thus, fear. Thoughts of keeping this little boy of mine safe consume me. Replacing God. For my son is who I see daily. Before my eyes. He is my one and only, whom I love.

And so Tuesday morning, God got my attention. Again. He called out to me and said, “Pam! Take your son, your only son, whom you love, and offer him to me as a burnt offering.” And so, once more I tried to. On the floor of my bathroom. I wrestled. I cried out, “Take this cup from me. But nonetheless, not my will but Yours be done.” And so afterward, I offered my son. My only son. To God. On the altar of my bathroom floor. And in releasing him to God, my son’s hold on me is loosened. My grip is not as tight. For I realize he was never truly mine to begin with. For He’s God’s possession. So, in releasing what’s tangible, what I can see and smell and hear and hold, I am freed to grab hold of something else. The intangible. The unseen. By offering my son, a burnt offering, I find I am free to take hold of God once more. Once again, there’s room in my heart for Him. This is how I worship God.

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Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship. Romans 12:1

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