Some days, I wake up feeling very good about myself. My family and I have been serving overseas for seven years now, weathering our own personal share of storms and difficulties. We’re still living and working in a place to which we feel God has called us, even on the hard days. This is what faithfulness looks like, is it not?
I recently began to question my self-analysis as I reread Corrie ten Boom’s classic, The Hiding Place. In the book she chronicles the story of how her family’s downtown watchmaker’s shop and home became the main hub for underground activity in their city during the Nazi occupation of Holland. Corrie’s beautifully written story of pain, hardship, and ultimate love, is a treasure for the world — one of courageous and selfless sacrifice for others.
Page after page, tears stung my eyes. Corrie’s heartfelt account revealed a deep love for Jesus and others. What I did not expect to feel was conviction, particularly at how regularly and thoroughly she and her family put the well-being of others before their own.
Surely I am already a master at sacrifice. Look at my life! I have left everything – okay, most things – in order to live and work overseas. I have left family, most painfully, and I only get to see my loved ones every few years. We have chosen to live on a ministry salary, without the option to buy a home or get a promotion in our company/organization. Surely we know what sacrifice is all about!
Especially now, as we traverse the US on home assignment, it is clearer to me than ever all that we have given up for Jesus. What, Holy Spirit, are you trying to tell me?
And yet, as I’ve let my heart settle into the familiar current of conviction, I hear the gentle whisper: But there’s more. This is true, I must admit. We still live and function from abundance, even on a ministry salary. We still live in comfort, even in another country. And while neither comfort nor abundance are an evil by any means, have I become dependent upon them for my joy and contentment?
It can be easy to dismiss the amount of sacrifice and hospitality the ten Boom family demonstrated as necessary for wartime survival, due to extenuating circumstances. Surely if we were in a similar time, we too would keep soup simmering on the back burner and not turn away anyone in need. But, notably, this was the hum of their home long before the Nazis invaded Holland. Their mother kept the coffee warm and their father lent his open ear even in peacetime. Their sacrificial lifestyle during a worldwide crisis was an extension of their humble routine for decades before.
Or perhaps we can dismiss their sacrifices on the basis of a context differential. Living in Africa, the needs are endless, the asks are frequent, the need for wisdom on these matters constant. Surely there couldn’t have been as much need in Holland; surely my situation requires more nuance than the ten Boom family’s did. But truly? They continued to minister in their context and historical moment, knowing full well that imprisonment was a likely outcome and perhaps even death.
Let’s face it: we are often quick to dismiss our missionary predecessors for their ‘ministry to God above all else mindset,’ often at the expense of their families, children, and their own well-being. But perhaps our critical focus has dulled the voice of the Spirit in our lives; perhaps we have been caught up in our own cultural moment as well, where our own selves are at the center, where self-care is utmost, where comfort must be ensured for longevity.
I am not the one providing any answers here. I am only asking the questions, primarily of my own heart, and if you can resonate at all, of yours as well.
When I am facing a heart of fresh conviction, it is helpful to fix my eyes again on Jesus. Looking at him, I see the kind of ultimate love that motivated his selfless sacrifices all throughout his life, even to death. And so, gratefully, painfully, I can ask of the Spirit again, what would you have me do? And we trust, again, that he will give us the grace and strength we need to continue to live sacrificial lives, growing up into Christ more each day.
“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2)