I wrote this post a few weeks ago, but the emotions are still real:
There are some days when the sacrifice just seems too hard. Today was one of those days.
My brother’s military graduation is in a few days, and as a way to participate remotely in this very special occasion, I had the bright idea of dressing up our kids in military garb and doing a photo shoot in our living room. I envisioned adorable little mini soldiers making angry, military faces, growling like tiger kittens. The picture would be hilarious and perfect, especially after Nate worked some of his magic.
Oh, was I SO wrong. The kids immediately started crying when I began applying their face paint and dressing them in camo clothes. It was even worse when they got in front of the camera. I thought it would be easy, since they didn’t even have to smile…we actually wanted them to look mad and military-like, but instead of angry soldiers, we got whining, crying, screaming kids. Both of them. (It didn’t help that they hadn’t slept much during their nap time).
We managed to take a few terrible shots, and then promptly shut down the operation, as the kids refused to comply–even after bribery attempts.
I couldn’t believe how angry I was at the kids. How could they do this? How could they ruin this? I couldn’t understand my violent reaction. Why was this affecting me so much? I couldn’t hold in the tears, so I excused myself upstairs. I burst into a deluge of sorrow as soon as I was out of sight, and the reason for my frustration became clear…I was missing my family in the US. I was missing my little brother. I was upset that I couldn’t be there in person…that I couldn’t be there to join in the celebration, to watch him receive his honors, to give him a huge hug. I suddenly realized how much I was missing. I had already missed two brothers’ college graduations, several weddings (good friends and cousins), multiple birthdays and holidays, and we were soon to miss the birth of a niece (Nate’s sister, Lydia). And yes, even the deaths that we would miss–something I think about more often nowadays. It was all too overwhelming.
Is it worth it? Is this sacrifice worth it? To miss SO much of my loved ones’ lives? The memories lost with cousins, aunties and uncles, and grandparents. The moments that are fleeing by–the ones that can never be recovered or relived. Yes, there’s Skype and there are the occasional visits and our once-every-two-years trips to the States, but the truth is that we are missing out on so much. Almost more than the big events–graduations etc., it’s the little moments that we’re missing…the little beautiful moments that make up this life.
The verse that haunts me, the verse that I sometimes wish was excluded from the Canon of Scripture, is this– “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.”
(Matthew 19:29) This verse is situated in the context of Christ’s interaction with the rich young ruler. Christ had just beseeched him to leave his most treasured possession (wealth) and follow Him. This quote is Christ’s commentary after the wealthy ruler walks away, unable to part with his treasures for the greater treasure of Christ.
In many ways, my most treasured earthly possessions are my family and friends. There are days when I think that being in Cambodia would not be as difficult, if I did not cherish my family and friends as much as I do. I secretly envy those who have strained familial relationships, feeling like it would somehow be more bearable than the great pain I feel in missing my loved ones so very dearly.
And so, every day I make the choice. Do I pursue Christ and what He has called me to? (i.e. ministry in Cambodia) or do I forsake Him and return to my precious earthly treasure…which cost is greater? There are definitely days when I ask, “Is it worth it?” Surely, Christ will understand! After all, He created the concept of the family unit, and a godly, loving family is honoring to Him. Will He not understand my desire for my kids to grow up in the priceless environment of a multi-generational family? Is it wrong for me to want the experience of having play dates with my sister and nephew and spending the holidays surrounded by my goofy, wonderful brothers? And what about our parents? Our time with them is limited on this earth, and we are spending the majority of that time apart from them. I struggle with jealousy–knowing that my little nephew is seeing my parents multiple times a week, and we’re thrilled if we see them once a year.
And yet, as good as these things are. I am still called by my Lord to leave all for His sake. I am here in Cambodia because, by His grace, I have chosen to follow Him rather than the desire of my heart. He has called us to serve in this beloved country of Cambodia, to labor in this place of darkness–where His name is largely unknown and where we are called to shine His Light of the Gospel. Until (or if) that call is unquestionably rescinded, this is where I must be. I know that I am in His will.
And then there is the promise of the verse: Everyone who abandons their earthly treasures “will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.” This truth cannot be taken lightly and should give me hope in the midst of the sacrifice. It is not just that I am walking in obedience to His calling, but that I can and should anticipate a blessing that is beyond all that I can imagine…what can possibly be a “hundredfold” greater than precious time with family and friends? I cannot begin to wrap my mind around this, but I can trust that it will blow my mind away. As 2 Corinthians 4:17 states: “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.” If only I lived each day in the full knowledge of this glorious truth!
Fast forward to today…
After everything, we did end up getting a great picture of the kids, and my brother was thrilled to receive it. Yes, it was painful to be so far away, but chatting with him on his big day definitely helped. I am so incredibly proud of him and his decision to choose sacrifice. There’s nothing like having a family member in the military, to truly understand the sacrifice that these men and women–and their loved ones, give for the benefit of the nation. Here is a photo of my precious brother and his gorgeous wife. We love you both so much!