Every so often, I stand back from life’s noisy parade so that I can remember how I got this far. When I’m in that frame of mind, it doesn’t take more than a moment to realize (again) that I’ve arrived at this place in life in large part because of the sacrifices of others. Not just their help or mentoring or generosity. For reasons I may never know, these folks gave up or surrendered some of their cherished rights, privileges or opportunities so that I could do well. The longer I think about it, the longer the list gets. And the more I see that these sacrifices are rooted in grace—undeserved favor that somehow lighted on me.
First and foremost, I’ve benefited from the grace of God—unconditional love—and from the sacrifice of God’s only son. My parents are also at the top of that list. I live gratefully with strong, emotional recollections of how my parents forfeited parts of their lives so that I could enjoy opportunities and grow towards maturity.
My loving spouse has always been a self-giving person, for the benefit of anyone around her. A cherished part of our shared story: At some cost to her own well-being, she took nonstop care of me years ago during my cancer-treatment and recovery.
I am also certain that my teachers and mentors gave away time and energy—sometimes at considerable cost to themselves—to help their students learn important life lessons. A curious side note: I’ve had the opportunity over the years to thank several of them personally for specific acts and attributes, but I don’t recall any of them thinking of their actions as sacrifices!
My precious circle of friends deserves note here. Besides what’s obviously helpful—advice, time, assistance, accompaniment—there are doubtlessly other sacrificial kindnesses that I don’t always notice. The numerous times in life when they offer help without ever letting on that they’re sacrificing some of their own well-being in order to come alongside.
Almost daily I notice how quietly and invisibly others’ sacrifices land at my doorstep. No big announcements, no ostentatious shows of altruism, no consideration of this grace-giving being anything but normal. Almost universally, it seems, the sacrifice-givers think of their way of living as normal, expected, useful and satisfying. They seem to understand the wonderful outcomes of giving away their blessings for the sake of others.
I have been aware of this part of blessedness since I was in high school. What has also occurred to me for years is that sacrificing must remain part of my obligation and privilege as a follower of Christ. To be a quiet benefactor, advocate, supporter, listener and defender. To be present but remaining in the background. To give away and build up. To deflect recognition and honor so that it’s given to others. To choose carefully which people to sacrifice for. To find joy in surrendering or losing something good for the greater good. To be part of the intangibly powerful company of people who live sacrificially.
I understand the unique place I have in the overall will of God, a way of living that matches my spirit and capabilities at this time in life. I hope to continue to recognize and remember the sacrifices the others have made during my whole life—including this very moment. And I hope always to give away whatever might benefit future generations.
I will not forget.