sacrifice

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Sacrifice is a word that I have not well-understood. Like the word, surrender, the meaning conveyed to me has been one of self-abnegation. It has been a challenge for me to live into the fullness of its meaning.

While I deeply believe in the goodness of laying one’s life down in love for the sake of another, it can be a hard pill to swallow if one is taught that the purpose of one’s life is to be used for the sake of another.  Selflessness as a virtue can be dangerous in the presence of power-differentials and abusive relationships, which fail to revere the value of the other. Sacrificing one’s gift, one’s hope, one’s goodness even, is not, I think, what is asked of us.

It is complicated. We are so richly interdependent, not merely with one another as human beings, but as beings in this complex web of life here on earth. The reality here in this place IS that things die, are sacrificed, each moment so that something else can live a while longer.  Of course, that’s only if you understand life as an individual. At the interconnected level nothing is ever lost.

I have gotten off track, but of course this train of thought can run in ever-widening circles….

In this particular moment, then, the idea that is rising in my awareness is that, while I am perhaps an infinite being in some cosmic recycling of life, I am also a finite one while in this body, with limited resources of energy and time. I cannot be all things, do all things, express all things, understand all things, receive all things. Despite the words of the culture that try to tell me otherwise.. that I CAN have everything.. something must be sacrificed in order to give myself heart-fully to any one thing. It may be necessary to sacrifice even what I have loved doing and being in order to become a gift.

And this is the sacrifice I am always being invited to make. This thing that I love or that, often mutually exclusive, one, each of them valuable and worthy of attention, each of them sacred pursuits for which I might lay down my life. How does one choose, in order to create the boundaries necessary to carry a thirst-quenching gift, which holy vessel into which to pour one’s life?

It is not lost on me that the word sacrifice has at its root the word sacred. If I believe that this physical incarnation is a blessed embodiment of Love, a hallowed trust between our human nature and the divine one,  what is it that I am being asked to give, ‘foresaking all others’ (as we utter in sacred bonds of another sort).  Mary heard it in the call to bring forth the divine life that she bore in her womb.

Even if you don’t believe that, there seems to be something that calls us to live full-bodied in this place. The questions that beseech may come from the earth herself, questions like this,  ‘What does it mean that the earth is so beautiful, what is the life I should live?’ (mary oliver) or more simply ‘What does the earth ask of you?’

We do live in an abundant universe, full of seeds of possibility and potential, but few of those seeds grow to maturity. Most become food, sacrificed in this great sacred cycle. Only some  take root in fertile soil, receive nurture, sunlight, abundant rain, and protection from predators, to flower and fruit.

It seems there are sacred junctures along the way, when we are asked to choose to what we will give our lives. At times the next incarnation of Love may ask us to lie down, set aside, who we have been to open to who we are becoming, ‘to let go the life we have planned to step into the life that is waiting’ (Joseph Campbell). Often that can feel like death… the death of a dream or a way of being. Sometimes it can merely feel hard, the soil of one’s life compacted into ruts make it difficult to flow in a new direction.

A tree ceases being a tree, perhaps, when it lies down, sacrificing one way of being for another, it’s essence taken up by fungi and mosses, seedlings and sprouts. Having lived its life fully, it is ready to become something new. It can no longer flower and fruit, offer shelter or shade, but it can still grow. I become something new too, when I cease pouring myself into so many leaves, let myself be vibrant, catching the light in a new way

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