One of my favorite quotes is by President Spencer W. Kimball: “As we give, we find that ‘sacrifice brings forth the blessings of heaven.’ And in the end, we learn that it was no sacrifice at all.”
In a letter to a dear friend serving her mission in Oregon, sacrifice came up and I shared that bit of wisdom from President Kimball with her. Sacrifice has been on my mind ever since, especially as I am studying the scriptures in the mornings and evenings. There is a lot of sacrifice in the Book of Mormon, I’ve noticed – sacrificing home, sacrificing worldly things, and most importantly the sacrifice of a contrite heart and a broken spirit.
My freshmen year at Southern Virginia University, I took my first institute class: Old Testament 1. I was the only freshman in the class, and I think the only one who hadn’t served a mission. It was a little overwhelming, but I held my own, between my already deep love of the Old Testament and the encouragement of an understanding and very loving teacher. The days where I spoke were rare – I was always busily writing notes in my journal and recording thoughts as the Spirit directed. Thankfully, my teacher realized that I was very much engaged in the class, albeit silently. My notebook was proof – scrawled with notes from margin to margin, complete with diagrams, pictures, and lists of cross references to mark in my scriptures later.
My favorite days were the ones we spent discussing Abraham and his son, Isaac. Studying the sacrifice that Abraham was about to make – and Isaac, without fighting, was willing to be the sacrifice – brought me a closer and more intimate knowledge of the atonement of Jesus Christ. Indeed, there are deep parallels between what happened in the wilderness and what happened on Calvary. I think Abraham has always been dear to me, before I can clearly remember. One of my favorite songs from my childhood is “Rock-a-My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham.”
What I learned from that week in Institute has stuck with me: sacrifice gives you the opportunity to draw nearer to God, and to His son, Jesus Christ.
In Church, we always talk about sacrificing a broken heart and a contrite spirit. On a basic level, I understood what that meant. It meant when you were down for the count, you gave it up to God. You said, “this is for you.” I learned a little more as I listened to the words to a favorite hymn, “Come, Thou Fount.” I keep a copy of the music folded up in my wallet, and have for so many years that the folds are beginning to become tears, and the paper is more like thin fabric. “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it – prone to leave the God I love; here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.” Sacrificing a broken heart and a contrite spirit meant making the effort to align your will with God’s will for you.
Now that I’m a little bit older (and I’d like to think a little bit wiser, but probably not), I know a little bit more about sacrifice. Sacrifice draws you closer to Heaven. It helps you understand in a deeper and more meaningful way the sacrifice of Christ – that sacrifice made for each of us. It’s a sacrifice of worldly cares and desires in exchange for higher, eternal desires. I learned it’s not a sacrifice if done on a whim, but only after prayer and serious thought can it truly be considered a sacrifice.
It may be a little thing, but in the grand scheme of things, sacrificing what we consider to be good for what is truly best, is what helps me to draw closer to my Father in Heaven. And what a blessing that is! Sacrificing a little more time to devote to service, sacrificing a television show for an hour of scripture study, sacrificing a little more money or means as a way to help your brethren (and sistren!). And it takes faith! Oh, how it takes faith! Faith is the key to sacrifice – if you don’t have faith, a sacrifice doesn’t amount to more than a deprivation. It takes faith to make a sacrifice and to give it all to the Lord without reservation or doubt. But the greater the faith, the greater the blessings. Stay faithful!
I learned from Abraham and Isaac that there is such a thing as a perfect sacrifice. I know I’m not near enough to perfection (far from it!) to be able to make a perfect sacrifice, but I know that the Lord sees the sacrifices I make as acceptable and important not only to Him, but to me. I think of sacrifice like brushing off the dust from your hands and feet after hard work – it is in a way sanctifying what you have done for the purpose of the Lord. Sacrifice, too, is a way of saying “thank you” for the blessings in life.
A year ago, I had the privilege of attending a luncheon at SVU with a distinguished professor of Italian and Holocaust studies. She was this wonderfully dear old Jewish woman (growing up in New England, you hear that Yiddish and you snap to attention) whose hands bore the marks of hard work, and whose voice held the tenor of a person who had seen much, and bore with dignity and pride the stories of her family. The stories she told of her family in Hungary being sent to Auschwitz broke my heart and nearly brought me to tears over my salad. Despite the grim stories she told, Dr. Ilona Klein brightly gave those in attendance a few words of well-earned wisdom, including “give until it hurts a little.”
Give until it hurts a little. Give so that it is noticeable in your own life. Make sure it is something that is meaningful, both to you and the Lord. Have faith that it means something not only to you, but to Him.
I can’t remember where I saw it, but the phrase “seek Heaven through sacrifice” was profoundly impacting upon me. All of these sacrifices that we make, whether great or small, when they are made for the right reasons, draw us closer to our Father in Heaven, as well as to our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ.
Making the sacrifice of a few ‘worldly’ things to make more room to spend time with my Father in Heaven, whether it be in prayer or in the scriptures, has so greatly blessed my life. Serving a mission is a form of sacrifice – one I gladly and humbly make, as a way to thank my Father – and one that I look forward to with all of my heart.
I have learned, however, that it is that sacrifice of the broken heart and contrite spirit that are most meaningful. The burden is lightened, the way becomes brighter, and the lines of communication between my Father and I are strengthened. I see more clearly the plan He has for me, and am able to carry on in a way that I was unable to do before. I hear Him more readily, and am able to be an instrument in His hand more regularly. Zion looks nearer as I offer up my concerns to Him (also a form of sacrifice, no longer holding them tightly to your heart), and as I make the sacrifice to serve Him and His children, wherever I may be.
And like President Kimball said, we find that in the end, it was no sacrifice at all.