Last week as I made my way across campus, I encountered an older woman, tightly clutching her purse, who seemed a bit confused and distressed. I identified myself as a Belmont employee and I asked if I could help her in some way. She began to tell me her story. She was on campus to “pay for her grandson’s tuition.” She explained that he was an incoming freshman who would be enrolling for fall classes. She then said, “I sold my house to pay for his college education.” She was worried that she might have to wait until the semester began to pay his bill. “Do you think that I can pay for it today?” And I assured her that she could and that I would be glad to walk her over to the campus location that handled such matters. She looked down at her purse and said, “I will be so glad to get all of this money out of my purse. I have been afraid to put it down anywhere all day.” I then began to realize that she had the actual cash proceeds from the sale of her house in her purse! She was walking around campus with thousands and thousands of dollars in cash.
I was certainly shocked by the realization of the situation, but perhaps even more taken with the narrative that was being written in the life of that family. She knew the importance of education. She coupled that with the love she had for her grandson. Did she have somewhere else to live? Did she keep enough of her equity to survive for the remainder of her life? Did she even stop to consider the enormous sacrifice she was making? My guess is that she probably thought through all of those scenarios, but counted them of little concern when contrasted with the surpassing great joy of sending a beloved grandson to college.
The Power of Sacrifice is an amazing tool. With a willingness to sacrifice, impossible dreams are brought to reality, insurmountable mountains are scaled with relative ease, freedoms are offered to the oppressed, and distant visions become as sight. The story of such sacrifice is told thousands of times a day in the lives of ordinary people. How many single parents sacrifice time, energy, enjoyment, and even their own dreams in order to create a path for their children to succeed? How many teachers drain their personal accounts to buy school supplies for their woefully ill-equipped classrooms so their “kids” will have the opportunity at learning? How many fathers will work two or three jobs to put food on the family table? How many mothers will clean another woman’s house or take in laundry in order to make ends meet? How many soldiers will go off to war so that the nation lives in relative peace? How many missionaries will sacrifice health and family ties so that others might hear the Gospel? How many couples do without so their children can have the opportunity to play a team sport at school or march in the local high school band? How many grandmothers will gladly sell a house to send a grandson to college?
It is my belief that most noble endeavors… most deeds of lasting significance… most decisions that change the trajectory of someone’s future are all forged on the anvil of sacrifice. It is not the coerced sacrifice that is meaningful, but the ones gladly made that are the most poignant. The opposite of sacrifice is surely selfishness. For until we are willing to forsake ourselves, our comforts, our securities, or even our carefully saved finances, will we be in a position to make a transformative difference in the life of someone else. The question is difficult. What are you willing to sacrifice so that someone’s life is made better? What are you willing to leave behind, cast aside, or release from your grasp that will make a difference? It may be your lifestyle, your materialistically-manipulated value system, your pride, your opinion, or even your power and influence. Maybe it’s as simple as giving away your own life.
At the end of the day don’t we all share a desire for our lives to matter? Don’t we want our lives to count? I don’t know about you, but when it is all said and done, I want to leave with an empty tank… I want to empty every ounce of my energy and every breath in my lungs. I want to know the exquisite joy that can only be experienced by the sacrifice of self in order to make life better for someone else. Maybe the better question is not, “What will I sacrifice in the future to make a difference?” But instead, “What can I sacrifice today to create a transformative investment in someone else’s life?”
Someone once said that humility is not thinking less of yourself… it is thinking about yourself less. There are a lot of problems in our culture and world that need a solution. Some of those solutions begin with your willingness to live a life of sacrifice.
– Dr. Jon Roebuck, Executive Director