Sacrificing Isaac

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.

Martyrs’ Shrine, Midland, Ontario, Canada. It is consecrated to the memory of the Canadian Martyrs, six Jesuit Martyrs, including St. Jean de Brebeuf, and two laymen from the Jesuit mission of Ste. Marie among the Hurons.

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?

Deo Gratias

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22 Responses to Sacrificing Isaac

  1. I think that for myself, I needed to everything that is available: retreats, endless reading, prayers, devotions, daily Mass, writing, teaching RCIA, joining a secular order of Carmelites, and to talk only of God 24/7. It took a toll on me, which I didn’t mind, but it took a toll on my family as well. So it imploded; it was inevitable. So years later I began to take baby steps back into the spiritual waters; slowly and simplistically like a child. It is often that we start clinging to these peripheral spiritual practices as if they were somehow Christ Himself. God’s lesson to me is that these are nice but not necessary and they do not replace Him. There is only one thing necessary.

  2. I have a question: why do you feel God asked you to give this up? I have to admit I’m oh so confused on why this particular thing he’d ask you to give up (even if you love it)? Hugs!

    • I can understand your confusion. As I said in my post, throughout life, God uses different ways to draw us closer to Him and those ways change over the course of our life. Walking pilgrimage was just one way and it was good, but God asks us to give up even the things we love in faith that He knows what’s best.

  3. brotherofpaul says:

    Brilliant insight into your relationship with God.

    I think for me it is writing. I’ve enjoyed writing short stories, poems and anything else coming to mind. Always writing. Always. Now my focus is on what is important – Him.

  4. Biltrix says:

    My Isaac… I won’t say. But I can certainly relate. That’s all for now.

  5. Well said. We all have our Isaac moments and things that entertain our attention more than they ought. I know that if a way is blocked, to push against it sometimes but some times there is a calm and I do not resist the block. I think it is useful to know what our own unique ‘Isaac’ is. Mine was recently to give back my life to God on Twitter and the e readers have stolen attention from the family that God was unhappy about. After a digital fast, it all seemed so silly and trivial but at the time it was affecting my relationship with the Creator. Great post. Great insight

  6. Ophelia says:

    I think I know what you mean. In the days leading up to the walk, that was all I could think of. I wanted so much to go. I even went and splurged on a Tilley hat even though I knew I could not go and would have no use for it.

    I wanted to see them off or meet them at the shrine. But then, I also understand what a strong bond they will develop with each other. I don’t belong. But my heart is with them. When it rained, I worried they would be soaked. When it was nice weather, I knew they would have a good walk.

    I wanted SO MUCH to walk with them. But it is not what I want, is it? I used to be able to do whatever I wanted, to entertain every whim I had, be it going on a retreat or pilgrimage. It was all me me me. The other day, it suddenly dawned on me that in the past month or so, because of my dad, nothing I did was for myself anymore. I am not complaining. It actually feels good because the sacrifices I made are my offerings to God.

    Spending 9 days walking with our Lord is a privilege. The first year that I couldn’t go, I was so upset wondering why God wouldn’t want me to spend such a special time with Him again. But now I understand those two years walking with Him are to develop a relationship with Him so that I know to trust Him now when I need Him the most.

  7. That was a really good post. I really liked the way you worked in the theme of Isaac, and how you found meaning for it in other things in life. Very well done – i read it twice just to take it all in slowly. I understand how you feel, but I admire what you are taking from it. I will think of you tonight and say a prayer for you.

  8. vftmom247 says:

    You are echoing what a wise man told me this past Sunday. Your posts are good, but this one just hit home. I think God does give us things sometimes because He does know we need them…but maybe only for a certain period of time. He knows what we need, when we need it, and for how long. He also has this uncanny knack of knowing when we need to be reminded that He and our primary vocation as God’s child comes first, always. Sometimes, we may need to be separated from something or someone for a bit to remind us of this fact. And we may cry, we may yell at God, but it is all for His higher purpose, incomprehensible though that may be to us at the time.

    I do hope all works out with your friend. Please remember not to guilt-trip yourself while all is sorting itself out and in God’s hands. We women are good at that!

  9. lilyboat says:

    Every day, we are asked to give up something whether we know it or not. Self-mortification is an act of active penance, a purifying process if done by the guidance of God. It’s a beautiful thing to answer God when He asks us to return what He gave us in the first place. For me, it’s always been hard to let go of my passion for cycling. Unless the divine intervention blocks my indulgence, I will let cycling dominate my life, and my life will be possessed/controlled by it! I’ve seen many of my cycling friends who were dominated by this intense activity.

  10. reinkat says:

    A strange thing is that I was telling my husband “we should go on a pilgrimage” (we had been talking about Northern Spain) and then we said there must be a pilgrimage in North America somewhere. Even thought we have never heard of any. We’ll have to Google it, we decided . . . and when I went to log in, I found your post with the story of a pilgrimage (amongst other insights) that we had been unaware of. It is almost like a suggestion . . . a sign if you will.

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