During Lent, we talk a lot about what we’ll give up. Fasting and sacrifice play an important part in our spiritual lives, but there is the story of a boy who was willing to give up something of infinite value.
This five year old’s sister suffered from a rare and serious disease. Her only hope of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her brother, who had miraculously survived the same disease and had developed the antibodies needed to combat the illness. The doctor explained the situation to the boy and asked if he would donate blood to his sister.
The little boy hesitated for a moment before taking a deep breath and saying, “yes, I’ll do it if it will save her.”
As the transfusion progressed, the boy lay in bed next to his sister and smiled, as everyone did, seeing the color return to her cheeks. Then the boy’s face grew pale, and his smile faded. He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, “Will I start to die right away?”
The little fellow had misunderstood the procedure. He thought he was going to have to give his sister all of his blood in order to save her.
Five-year-olds are like that. They don’t always get all the facts right. But they often get the meaning right and have something to teach the rest of us about giving up what truly counts.
Surely God smiles on all of our sacrifices when they are made out of spiritual devotion or human concern. But beyond the chocolate and the caffeine, what is there in our lives that, if we were to give it up, might make a positive difference in the life of another person? What might we do sacrificially that would benefit the world?
Sacrifice is not a popular concept these days. Judged by the bulging size of our waistlines and the increasing square footage of our homes, we are not a culture that likes to say ”no.” We want the good life and all it offers. Living with less tends to make us feel deprived, resentful, even inadequate.
But, as that little boy showed, the path to the best life lies not in the content of our homes but in the quality of our relationships. To gain this satisfaction means that, at some point, we must say “no” to ourselves in order to say “yes” to an even greater good.
In his covenant renewal service, John Wesley put it well: In some ways, we may please Christ and please ourselves. In other ways, we cannot please Christ except by denying ourselves.
In our culture of more and more, our Lenten journey is guided by a cross. We sacrifice so that others may benefit from our resources and we may find a little more freedom from material things. We give some of our time to God to grow spiritually and to re-order our priorities. We deny our- selves in hopes of offering ourselves with the sort of love that allowed Jesus to give himself for us.
It’s a lesson simple enough for a five-year-old to comprehend. Praying you experience a spiritually rich Lent,
P.S. Click the picture or link below to read the full March 2023 edition of The Beacon.