Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Sacrifice

In Sunday School this week our lesson was about the rich young man. You know the one--he was truly trying to keep the commandments for the right reasons, and recognized in the Savior and Individual who was perhaps more than a great rabbi. Upon asking what more he could do to follow God, the Savior, carefully considering the young man's sincerity and lifestyle, admonished him to sell all that he had, give it to the poor, and then follow the Savior.

The teacher had some fantastic quotes--one from a Protestant reformer (Wycliff, maybe?) who expressed his deep concern about the inability of Christians to stay humble when they became wealthy, practically describing the central themes found so bluntly stated in the Book of Mormon. A second quote came from Brigham Young as follows, "The worst fear I have about this people is that they will get rich in this country, forget God and His people, wax fat, and kick themselves out of the Church and go to hell. This people will stand mobbing, robbing, poverty, and all manner of persecution and be true. But my greatest fear is that they cannot stand wealth.” Then he referenced Joseph Smith from Lectures on Faith, "A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary to life and salvation."

There followed a very interesting discussion about the sacrifice of "all things", and what exactly the Lord expects from us. The conversation then moved into the idea of covetousness and how it isn't the wanting of others' stuff that is the problem as much as the bad feeling it gives us toward others when they have more or are more. Competition, coveting and pride are all sins on the same spectrum. Ultimately we don't just envy and hate those who have more . . . we scorn those who have less. Coveting nearly always leads to enmity. And, as is so often the antidote for sin, charity seems to be the cure.

So what the Lord expects is our time, talents and our energies for the good of others. This combination will be unique to everyone, but it seems fairly certain that anything less than our all isn't enough.

I think I'm starting to understand about sacrifice, at least a little bit. What I'm still working on is the faith part that says, "Any sacrifice pales in comparison to the blessings . . . ." I think that one of the great strengths of LDS people is their willingness to sacrifice. And today I need your strength. Take a moment here to share a time when you sacrificed, and what it taught you. I know that sacrifice isn't about making sure that others know what you've done, but maybe this is a forum when we can draw strength to have the faith to continue giving our all.

You see, right now I'm going through a period of discouragement regarding my rather stupid job. As has been typical throughout our whole marriage, my extra income is just a little bit more than the 10% we pay in tithing--the rest of my money mostly covers my own tithing and my expenses for the paper route. For me, tithes and offerings aren't just about writing a couple of checks every month . . . it is about setting an alarm at 3 o'clock every. single. day. Probably at least for a couple of more years, unless I expect my family to share the sacrifice. No lessons. No dates. No vacations. No mission fund. No fun. Either I suffer or we all suffer.

Then I look around my community, my country, and the world, and I see actual suffering and I feel very small and selfish. Please, share your stories. It will ease the passage in the dark tomorrow morning.

6 comments:

Janssen said...

What a fantastic post. We had this lesson a few weeks ago and the teacher (who is the most excellent church teacher I have ever had) mentioned that the average income in our town is over $60K, which puts you in the top 1% of the world.

She said that she feels like it's sometimes our impulse to think we are not the rich young man - we're just average, but really, we are absolutely the people who fall into the wealthy category. We just don't feel like we have enough cool stuff to qualify for "rich."

I've thought about this a lot in the last couple of weeks.

Melanie said...

My story isn't a big or grand one. A little while back I started to get annoyed that I was constantly being asked for rides to church activities. I live in an area with a good public transportation system, so a few of my friends choose not to invest in a car and its associated expenses because they can get to and from work just fine using the metro.

But then I thought about how comfortable my lifestyle is. I don't make a whole lot, but I'm able to pay for my insurance and gas without a struggle. One of the small things I can do to so my gratitude for all of my temporal blessings is to provide those rides with a cheerful attitude. I've been blessed with resources, and I can be happy to share them.

I'm not sure how long I'll get to enjoy this comfortable lifestyle. Living on a small income as a single person is much different than living on a small income as a family. And I know that it's becoming increasingly difficult to live as a one (full-time) income family.

I also know that some of the most poignant sacrifices aren't of money or material things.

Jenny said...

I am so NOT a morning person!
I shudder at your sacrifice.
BUT.
I recall learning that YOU made an 18 month sacrifice in the form of a mission. Who can deny the lifelong reserve of blessings that have resulted from that?
How about sacrificing your career to raise three awesome boys?
When we're living the commandments the way we should, sacrifice is almost always the by-product. And we recognize it and shrug it off, knowing that the results are SO worth what we give up.
You're going to have NO problem getting your kids to early morning seminary!! You're an early morning professional.

Kimberly Bluestocking said...

After the Newport Beach Temple was announced, the First Presidency asked the future members of that temple district to finance the entire temple themselves, something unheard of in recent decades. Our local leaders encouraged us to give not just a random amount, but the cost of something that would be a true sacrifice for us.

I was a single student in that area at the time. After reflecting on what I could sacrifice, I decided to give the money I had saved to finally buy something I really wanted. The amount wasn't much, but it was a big sacrifice to me because I had wanted the thing so much. My future husband was in the same area, and he asked his family to donate the amount they would have spent on his Christmas presents.

The blessings I received were twofold. First, as I think of the enormous sacrifices the early saints made to build the Kirtland and Nauvoo temples, I am grateful that I was able to make my own small sacrifice for such an eternally important cause.

Second, while the temple was under construction, my single's branch president told the branch he had felt strongly impressed that if the singles would sacrifice to help build it, the blessings of temple sealings would come into their lives. My future husband and I took that promise to heart, and though we had no thought of dating each other at the time, we were married less than a year later. Consequently, the temple we both sacrificed to build has very special meaning for us.

Scully said...

I think sometimes faith and trust in the Lord is the sacrifice. Losing my mother, showing up at family functions where awkwardness abounds, being a single 30-something and making the transition from YSA to SA are not easy things and I will admit to occasionally raising my eyes to heaven and asking "Really?" However, I also know that moving forward in faith according to the promptings I get, trying my hardest to live up to the covenants I have made, and making all the little changes I need to can add up to something greater than the sum of its parts. Maybe this is just because I tend to be a know-it-all, but I feel that the biggest sacrifice we can make is acknowledging that the Lord knows best and acting on that knowledge, especially when it seems so counter to what we think is best for us.

Christie said...

I once went to a Stake Relief Society conference when my kids were 3 and 18 months. At the time I was really struggling as an at-home mom. (Feeling under-appreciated, not feeling like I was using all my talents, feeling unfulfilled -- not a happy memory, but truthful.)

The speaker was Janice Kapp Perry, LDS songwriter. I spoke with her after the meeting about the tugs and pulls of the workplace vs. mothering. She said, "There's time for everything. You just have to live contentedly in the season you're in."

As much as I love my kids, being an at-home mom was a sacrifice for me. Even staying home until my youngest was old enough to be in middle school was a sacrifice. But now that I'm in the workplace after being home for 16 years, I'm grateful for Janice Kapp Perry's words of so long ago. She was right.

Being an at-home mom is a sacrifice. Like you, for me it meant pinching pennies until they screamed! I became a master budgeter. I cooked from scratch, weeded in the garden that gave us cheap produce, made slipcovers to cover hideous used furniture. I even hand-made cloth diapers to use with my first-born.

Looking back now, I can see that the realities of being an at-home mom gave me priceless blessings and opportunities. I would do it all again in a heart-beat! (I would, however, hope to clue-in to my undiagnosed low-grade depression a whole lot sooner. I figure I had it for about four years.)

Living with no regrets is an added bonus from any true sacrifice.