Tonight I put my five year old son to bed and we read a story out of the Jesus Story Book Bible. (If you don’t own it, stop reading and go buy it HERE). I asked what he wanted to read and he said the story of Abraham sacrificing Isaac. Seriously kid? You want me—your dad—to read you a bedtime story about the time God told a dad to kill his son? How am I going to explain this to you? How am I going to explain this to me? How am I going to explain to your mom when she finds out?
But I believe in the transformational truth that fills every page of scripture. I believed if we journeyed up that mountain in faith with Abraham and Isaac, we’d find Good News at the summit. So we set off—dumbfounded that God would ask such a thing of Abraham, and lamenting that Abraham would obey. We read the story and then we talked.
We talked about how important Abraham was, how God made him an incredible promise—that his family would be a blessing to every family on earth—long before he had any children and long after he thought he could. We framed this tragedy in the long arc of God’s goodness.
I said, “Patrick, sometimes God gives us a gift that’s so wonderful we start to love it even more than we love God.”
“Oh daddy, that’s really bad!”
“Yeah it is! I wonder if Abraham needed to be know how much he loved God and that’s why God asked him to do this—not because he wanted him to kill Isaac—but because he wanted Abraham to remember how much He loved God?
God once gave me something I had always wanted and then suddenly took it away. Have I ever told you that story?”
“NO, that’s terrible!”
“Yeah, at the time it was pretty tough. I was young, I had this VW Campmobile. I loved that van so much and the way I got it really felt like a gift from God.
But then I started to love that van more than I loved God. And one day, all of a sudden, it just broke down in such a way that I knew God was taking it away from me.
I ended up just giving it away and walking away from a life that wasn’t very honoring to God.”
“Were you sooo sad, daddy? I’m sad for you.”
“Yeah I was pretty sad. But the way the story turned out I realized it was actually a good thing. Do you know what happened?”
“No? What happened?”
“Well a couple years later, I met your mom and when we decided to get married, guess what? God gave us another VW Van—it was just like that first van—even the same color! But this van was much nicer than the first one. We even took it on our honeymoon.”
“How did God give it to you?”
“Well just though the circumstance of how it all happened—I can look back now and see that it was a gift from God. Then a year or two later, someone knocked on our door and offered us twice what we had paid for it. What he offered was the exact amount of student debt we had, and so we sold it to him. And now that I’m telling you this story, I realize that the extra money was also the amount I lost on that first van.
Do you see how my story is like Abraham’s story?
Packy, everything in your life can draw you closer to God or cause you to run away from God. And no matter how good something seems, if it causes you to run away from God it’s not worth it. And no matter how hard something is, if it causes you to run toward God than its a good thing.
I think that’s what Abraham and Isaac learned on that mountain—I know it’s what I learned with that van.
Lord, I thank You that Your word is true. I thank You that You meet us in our bewilderment and reveal Your Good News. I pray that You would help me evaluate everything in my life by it’s help or hindrance in turning toward You. Show me what challenges I need to lean into and accept. Show me what blessings I’ve made into idols and need to destroy. Give to me purity of heart to seek Your face and the courage to seek Your kingdom. Amen.