Remember the Genesis account of Abraham and his son, Isaac? God tested Abraham by commanding him to offer his beloved only son, Isaac, as a burnt offering, a sacrifice. Abraham set off with Isaac to do as the Lord commanded because he loved the will of God more than anything or anyone else.
Isaac for us can be a lifestyle, career, education, valued possession, our health, even the life of our child or other loved one or our own life. All through our days, God will ask us to give up Isaac.
This past week, I had an Abraham and Isaac experience. For the past four years, I took part in a walking pilgrimage to Martyrs’ Shrine in Midland, Ontario, Canada. It’s roughly a 200 km walk with 30 -45 people over a 9 day period. Not only did I enjoy the walk, I also put my type-A, uber-organizing skills to good use behind the scenes. The Charge Nurse in me happily triaged blisters, twisted ankles, sunburns, fainting, sore knees, backs, heads and digestive systems of fellow pilgrims. It was a unique experience of prayer, reflection and fellowship that helped me to grow spiritually in so many ways.
This year, I didn’t go. At first, I volunteered to help with organizing but at the very last minute, I took back my offer. On a practical note, it didn’t seem possible for me to go because of scheduling and other responsibilities. But it was more than that. I believe in my heart that I wasn’t meant to go.
God uses different ways and means through the course of a lifetime to guide a soul and move it forward. His way of guiding us may change over time so that what was useful over a period is no longer appropriate and God changes His way of advancing our soul. I think that happened to me this year.
At first, I didn’t think that not walking would bother me, but it does. And the way I backed out of volunteering bothers me too. It was very abrupt. I fear it may have changed or even damaged a valued friendship.
I think God asked me to give back what rightfully belongs to Him – walking pilgrimage and maybe even a friendship. Letting go has been difficult but my heart tells me that it was the right thing to do. It’s like He’s telling me to put my love for pilgrimage and even my love for my friend on His altar and trust Him because He knows more than I do what my soul needs and wants.
“Look at Me,” He says, “don’t look back. It’s going to be OK. Trust Me.”
I cried a little during Sunday Mass because I wanted to walk with them. I think of the pilgrims who I know are weary and sore by now. I’ll continue to pray for them as they journey to Martyrs’ Shrine this week and offer up my own aches and pains for their intentions. And I’ll give the sadness I feel and the desire to join them to God.
Giving back to God what is His in the first place can be painful. Our will fights His Will. Only with much prayer can we accept what God is asking of us and follow where He’s guiding us.
Who or what is your Isaac?