Araunah said, “Why has my lord the king come to his servant?” “To buy your threshing floor,” David answered, “so I can build an altar to the LORD, that the plague on the people may be stopped.” Araunah said to David, “Let my lord the king take whatever pleases him and offer it up. Here are oxen for the burnt offering, and here are threshing sledges and ox yokes for the wood. O king, Araunah gives all this to the king.” Araunah also said to him, “May the LORD your God accept you.” But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen and paid fifty shekels of silver for them. ~ 2 Samuel 24:21-24
We are now several days into the Lenten season and I wish I could have a do-over. I decided not to give up chocolate, carbs or coffee this year but instead to sacrifice time to work on a book project that has been looming over my head for years. A few friends have recently given me gentle (and not so gentle) nudges to finish the book. I have received these prods as God’s way of reminding me that there is work for me to do.
Of course, because “time” is the sacrifice I wanted to make, needed to make, everything has happened to interfere with my commitment. I can’t remember receiving so many phone calls, text and email messages that needed my immediate attention, things on my to-do list that demanded my time and activities/events that required my presence as I have these last few days—not so coincidentally, every time I sit down to write. Nor have I felt more tired and unable to concentrate! Who knew that time would be harder to give up than chocolate?!
Part of the problem is that it’s not only time that I need. I also need quiet, focus and limited distractions. In other words, I need to get into the zone—that zone that those who write or create know so well. I need dedicated time. I need sacrificial time. And, in the midst of being busy and overly committed, setting aside the time to get into the zone is a monumental task for me.
It’s not too much of a sacrifice, though. I mean, come on! I’m really embarrassed to admit that this has been difficult. When I consider the reason why I observe Lent in the first place and the ultimate sacrifice that was made for me, I am ashamed and disappointed that I have not found a consistent time of day nor have I set aside a certain number of hours to do one of the things that God has called me to do—write.
Yes. I have a number of reasons for not getting it done. Good reasons. Solid reasons. But, my reasons are hollow when compared to the sacrifice that changed my life and my destiny. This is why I crave a do-over. I wish I could stop time, turn back the clock to Ash Wednesday and come up with a better and more detailed plan for my Lenten sacrifice. I wish I could get up earlier, go to bed later, turn the TV and social media off completely, lock myself in my room and emerge in 40 days with a book in hand!
Too bad that’s not how it works. I have a family and other responsibilities. I can’t just lock myself away today and emerge with a New York Times Bestseller on Easter Monday. It has to be a daily sacrifice, a weekly one, in order for me to complete this assignment that has felt so herculean to me. Yet, it’s an assignment I cannot actually complete on my own. I need the Lord’s inspiration to do it. I need to be in that place where my words and thoughts are consistent with what God reveals. I’m not only sacrificing in response to God but I also need to hear from God in order to faithfully complete this assignment. I also recognize that completing this assignment will change me and help me to grow. It will open my eyes to me even as I share with others.
Perhaps that’s why this text resonates with me so much. David called for a census and counted the people in Israel and Judah. This displeased God and a plague was sent that killed thousands of people,–70,000 to be exact. To right this wrong David goes to make an altar for the Lord and Araunah offers to give him all of the items for the altar and the burnt offerings for free. To this David responds, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” This declaration sums up the point of Lent—to offer something to the Lord that costs us, not because God requires or needs our sacrifice. Christ has already made the ultimate sacrifice for us. Instead, like David, we intentionally pay a price; give up something, because we recognize the gift that has been given to us. We also know, like David who sought an end to the plague, that we need the Lord to intervene in our circumstances. We acknowledge that the sacrifice we make draws us closer and into a more intimate relationship with God. Our sacrifice is an offering to God. So, why in the world would I offer to the Almighty something that didn’t cost me a thing? Talk about re-gifting. Talk about cheap grace!
This is why in spite of the fact that I can’t get a “do-over” per se, I have accepted the fact that each day that I have breath in my body is really another chance to get it right. It’s an opportunity to exercise discipline. It’s a chance to stay up late, get up early, shut out the world and do God’s bidding. That’s my do-over. Not that I’m throwing in the towel for this year. I can still sacrifice during Lent and everyday afterward. You see, this particular work is a costly work. It is a sacrifice. It is me digging deep and sharing what has been revealed to me. Hard stuff no matter how I look at it. Yet, I know that this work can be done. I know that it is not impossible. I know that I can do it. And, as much as I love chocolate, carbs and coffee, there’s something greater for me to give up this Lenten Season.
So, here’s to giving up the easy for the costly. Here’s to a costly sacrifice and another chance to get it right.