When Tori’s circle of influence is not acting in accordance with her agenda, the following expressions ensue…
I admit. She learned that from Mama. Neither of us can camouflage our emotion. We feel what we feel and we don’t bother pretending.
As a general rule…we’d rather not sacrifice our agenda and if we are going to have to bite the bullet, there better be a big pay off for it.
Recently I had a conversation with someone that caused me to reflect on the topic of self sacrifice. When is it motivated by the Spirit and when is it simply being a martyr for no good earthly reason save point scoring?
In this week’s example, a woman was discussing her alternatives to a hard life situation. She knew what she wanted but so far it seemed that her plan and God’s weren’t lining up. She wondered if she should surrender to it, take the self sacrificial path in an effort to bring some sort of “good” out of the situation, and swallow her agenda by doing something to benefit someone else. Maybe that was what God wanted all along? Was it? Hmmmmm….got me thinking. Was it?
In the specific scenario we were discussing I have a strong opinion on the matter. My answer (had she asked) was absolutely not – it wasn’t.
It seemed to me that if the choice was self sacrificial, it ultimately wasn’t going to benefit the
sacrificer and especially wasn’t going to benefit the sacrificee over the long haul. People tend to know when someone else has sacrificed on their behalf and our human natures don’t lend themselves to being “grateful” for that for long.
But Jim and I talked about it later and we both agreed that sometimes God does ask us to pick up our crosses. He does ask us to do the “hard” thing. How do we differentiate though between it being God’s agenda or our own flesh making that choice?
There are big dangers to self sacrificing out of the flesh. I know this because I lean towards the martyr type personality. This is where my Dad would say “And Doni how is that working out for you?”. It doesn’t work. Not at all. I think that is why I spot it so easily when someone else is playing that card. I know this game all too well (and the house wins by the way .
Here is how it works (and I’ll personalize this so I don’t make anyone sweat lol).
I get an agenda in my head of how I think something should go. It goes south in a big way. I am not happy about it. God does not appear to be rescuing the situation and I feel like a victim (and sometimes that is in fact the case in the technical sense). I then decide to surrender to worst case scenario – accept it – and “sacrifice”. Someone else may benefit from my sacrifice. That grates on me. I am pacified though by the comfort that comes from believing that I am taking one for “God’s” team. I am going to do the “right” thing and I realize I will pay a price for it…but God will get glory when I stand down.
Sound familiar to you? Playing this out further – here are some downline consequences to that.
1. I may be surrendering to what I think is inevitable because I am making false assumptions about God’s plan. I jump to the conclusion that He isn’t going to “fix” it for me so I jump ahead of the game and bite the bitter pill. This isn’t living loved.
2. Once I have “sacrificied”, I write it down on a little note that gets carried in my heart. I remember it when I need it. I need it when I see other people who are not making similar sacrifices. Builds up my self esteem to weigh myself against them and find them wanting. I need it when I am failing. I can remind myself of the times when I chose to bleed on things for the sake of doing “right” when the cost to pay for it was mine. That helps balance the scales. I need it when God is not adhering to my plan (again). I use it to remind Him of what I already gave up for “His sake”. This isn’t living loved.
3. I start believing that my self sacrificial behavior has “earned” me something with God. This isn’t living loved.
4. I get bitter when I am no better off. This isn’t living loved.
5. I start expecting to always be in the situation to be the one to “suffer” while someone else gets rescued. Now folks, that’s full scale character assassination against God and certainly isn’t living loved but I use my list of personal sacrifices to justify my case.
Some mighty big problems here don’t you think?
As I was thinking through the situation that served as a catalyst for this mental rabbit trail, the Lord spoke to my heart on the global issue as it applied in my life. He told me that when I believe I am having to sacrifice it’s because I am not believing Him. I am settling into a lie that He isn’t going to really work it out for my good. For someone else’s good? Maybe. For mine? No – He is just going to take from me and ask me to cowgirl up.
When I was in the fifth grade my elementary school teacher used to ask me to clean the naughty words off the bathroom walls during lunch sometimes. She asked me because she knew I would. She knew I aimed to please and would be DELIGHTED to GET to do something for her. My mother would get furious. As a child, I didn’t understand why my mom would get so upset by this. It was my choice and I was flattered that my teacher would ask for help. See martyrs like abuse on some scale because it makes them feel a tiny bit special. Suffering for the “greater good” is right up their alley. It gives them something to be proud of. When martyrs grow up though, they start realizing that cleaning up everyone else’s….bad words ;) – is for the birds. They need a bigger pay off to do it. They expect a bigger payoff.
Why do I believe that God uses me this way? Does God need a “good girl” on His team to go around cleaning the painful stuff up because “I can” and someone else “can’t” or “won’t”? Does He allow losses and griefs in my life soley for the purpose of comforting someone else? Does He ask me to stand down continually because He knows I can take it and He is busy directing His efforts towards healing someone else?
Ouch…starts sounding bitter after awhile doesn’t it? That’s where martyrs end up if their ultimate reward isn’t in line with their sense of justice – very bitter.
Are you a martyr? Do you have your own list of stuff that you sacrificed “for God”? Do you keep reminding Him and others of it in one form of the other? Do you struggle to live loved?
I don’t write this intending to say that God never asks for sacrifice. I think He does. What I am saying though is that God promises to work ALL things out for His good purpose in His kid’s lives. He promises that His love has no limits. I love to hear my kids recite Zephaniah 3:17. The Lord your God is in your midst. A mighty one who will save. He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by His love; He will exult over you with loud singing. Sounds like a God who stands with His arms wide open at the front door when you run home doesn’t it? Who tucks you into bed at night
and whispers words of love in your ear. Who loves to see you move forward in faith and is patient when you fall off the wagon. He isn’t afraid of your sin. He knows every portion of your life story from beginning to end and He embraces the entire YOU – the You that you really haven’t met yet. You are not who you are going to be.
When I live believing I am loved, His plans don’t look so self sacrificial. Even when the short term looks grim, I am learning to look expectantly down the road because He made a promise to me and He means to keep it. He isn’t going to ask me to do anything that He won’t work for GOOD purpose in my life. If it starts feeling like a “sacrifice”, I need to start questioning who really is doing the asking. There are plenty of reasons that may motivate me to “sacrifice” but God doesn’t get any glory when my sacrifices result in my own record keeping of what that act earned me. He gets glory when I trust Him. When I assume His good in all things. When I choose to lay self down – yes sometimes in a self sacrificing manner – but without bitterness with the hope and belief that comes from knowing my Abba loves me… and when He directs my path in a way I find painful… I can trust that the end of the story will not be about MY sacrifice. It will be about HIS.