Sacrificing from a Heart of Love
Happy Valentine's Day! in celebration of this romantic occasion we're thrilled to have photographer, blogger and constant inspirer, Bethany Shaw share some of her beautiful thoughts on love on the blog today!
If you seek a romance that endures, you will sacrifice.
If you seek a family that flourishes, you will sacrifice.
If you seek a friendship that deepens, you will sacrifice.
If you are going to love, truly love, another person you will be faced with sacrifice.
And this is painful.
Why? Because a sacrifice always requires death. The death of a dream…comfort…expectation. A true sacrifice isn’t a win-win or a compromise. It is often the inconvenient and sometimes heartbreaking laying aside of something dear in favor of another.
I have come to see that when these inevitable sacrifices are asked of us, we can either choose to sacrifice with a “heart of love” or a “heart of resentment.” And this will make all the difference.
Case in point….
The Beautiful House
On the cusp of my husband’s first year in medical school, he and I decided to take the plunge from renting an apartment to renting a house. Up until this, for the first four years of marriage, we’d shared an itty-bitty apartment in a slightly sketch complex. Though perfect for the newlywed stage, my heart fluttered at the thought of the washer, wood floors, and dishwasher (oh my!) a new home could provide.
Over the course of about a year, I’d been admiring a mysterious old duplex we walked by. I’d affectionately termed it The Beautiful House because of its timeless columns, romantic ivy-caressed walls, and enchanting stained glass. When our house search commenced, I took a chance and posted a note on the door of the occupied side of the home, asking the renter if she could send me the landlord’s contact information.
A month passed with nothing. I even rang the doorbell a couple of times when I saw the lights on. But, still nothing. In the meantime we discovered a darling blue bungalow with all the charm and amenities on our dream list. This landlord was even willing to mow our lawn monthly. Yes, you read that right: mow our lawn. The only downside was ... it wasn’t The Beautiful House.
The deadline was looming, so in accord with my non-stalkerish, very stalkerish, dauntless ways when I spotted the renter outside (when my husband and I were walking by on my way to our friend’s house ... don't judge!), I rushed up to introduce myself. Though initially startled, the renter offered to give us a tour of the unrented side! I swooned at the gorgeous natural light, the stained glass above the marble fireplace, and the captivating nooks and crannies. The renter shared how the landlord was a successful businesswoman who didn’t need the income from the home (which is why it stayed unlisted) and thus wasn’t very invested in the property. When things went wrong, she was slow to respond or repair. There was also a harrowing tale about a time she left food out. The next morning she awoke to see the table covered with what looked like moving black fur: a legion of ants!
We obtained the landlord’s info and learned that the rent would be within our slim student budget requirements. When we got outside, I was practically leaping. The Beautiful House was ours! Unfortunately, my excitement was not matched. My aghast husband couldn’t believe we’d had the same tour and kept repeating dazedly “moving black fur.” He argued the obvious red flags and voiced his reticence to rent a home with some obvious issues and a detached landlord during his first year of medical school (I should mention the porch was crumbling and the rotting porch roof was home to a family of squirrels). But, these concerns seemed very small to me in comparison to the loveliness of the home. When we asked older and wiser folks for input, they all sided against The Beautiful House.
I couldn’t believe that I could be so close to this dream and yet blocked by my own husband. And with this sentiment, a seed of resentment took root. The one with the name “If He Really Loved Me.” I tried to lay the house aside, but I'd given it too high a place in my heart. Due to my sadness at the prospect of loosing this dream, my husband made a Hail Mary to rent The Beautiful House in the 11th hour. But, we had already signed a lease for the blue bungalow and couldn’t get out of it. We’d lost our chance. So, in the end I had to sacrifice The Beautiful House for my husband. But, it was not a sacrifice with a heart of love, but with a heart tinged with resentment.
The Fertile Heart
Resentment is a tricky weed. It acclimates quickly to the soil of our hearts and must be combated until no root remains. Even if we make the right “action” of sacrifice, if we find ourselves sacrificing with a heart of resentment we have become “victim” and the person for whom we are sacrificing “oppressor.” But, when we sacrifice with a heart of love, we are empowered because we have chosen, no matter the pain, to sacrifice with eyes set upon a higher purpose than what we are laying aside. When love is chosen, its seed takes root and blooms abundant. When resentment is given ground, it counts every loss and chokes the very life from a relationship. We cannot expect a flourishing relationship if resentment is sharing our heart soil.
In the case of The Beautiful House, if I had chosen to sacrifice out of a heart of love, I would have been looking beyond my obsessive desire for a lovely living space to empathize with my husband’s need to live in security during a daunting first year of medical school. And even more than this, if I had chosen to sacrifice because I was looking to God Himself to be my true “Beautiful House,” then what I was giving up would have faded in the brightness of abiding in this greater joy. Then this putting to death would not only have been loving toward my husband but glorifying to God, because He is honored in the deep recesses of our hearts when we consider another person as higher than our own wishes. My joy would be fully invested in God instead of reliant on this dream fulfilled.
There are seasons in which you feel the weight of sacrifice more than others, and maybe you’re in one right now. These sacrifices can be menial: taking the time to shop and cook meals for your family, waking up throughout the night with a newborn, or answering a call from a long-winded friend. Or they can be monumental: embracing or relinquishing the desire to adopt, inviting an ailing parent to move in, or forgiving a friend who has significantly wounded you. During this season as a mother to a toddler and wife to a medical student, I am required to pick up the slack at home. Thus, I must choose a heart of love towards my family in the many daily menial sacrifices I face. When I choose a heart of love, looking towards God as my greatest joy, I have peace and purpose in my demanding yet humble tasks.
In this life you will sacrifice. But, what will germinate? Multiplying love or stifling resentment? You get to choose.
For more beautiful photos and thoughts from Bethany visit her website: www.againwesayrejoice.com and follow her on instagram: @bethanyjoyshaw