I just had my first hot shower in three months. A little while later, I flushed the toilet, without having to dump water into the bowl with a bucket. I hadn’t done that for one month. Then I made a meal for my kids using bread that we didn’t have to bake ourselves and eggs that weren’t even close to rotten. That was another “first time in three months” deal.
No doubt about it, we’re living the high life.
Three months ago, when we moved back into our bush location, we discovered that our hot water heater had broken in our absence, and that there wouldn’t be another one available to replace it with until this fall (maybe). The same thing turned out to be true regarding our shower unit (which is currently being replaced by a length of garden hose).
Then our region entered into its “dry season,” which lasts anywhere from 2-4 months. I don’t remember the exact date that dry season started, but I do remember the day. It was immediately following the day that we emptied, moved, and then refilled the boys’ two water beds. After that day, we didn’t get any rain for 4 weeks. Which is significant when your water is supplied via collected rainwater.
If you’ve ever been in a water rationing situation, then you know that toilet water is one of the first aspects of indoor plumbing that hits the chopping block. This is often done by degrees. First, you follow the age-old adage, “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.”
If the shortage persists, this law is amended to declare that any flushing be accomplished using only recycled wash water, or water you have pulled up from a hole you dug in your garden, down the hill from your house.
The bread and egg thing is just a typical bush-living reality.
We’re out of the bush right now though, living high-on-the-hog on one of our mission centers. And now that we’re basking in our relative lap of luxury, it has got me thinking about the general concept of sacrifices.
Normally, I think we limit the idea of sacrifices to when we, personally, are NOT able to have or experience something nice that we otherwise might be able to. Or, to put it differently, when WE get the short end of the stick for the sake of some “greater good,” we call that a sacrifice.
My family is regularly affirmed in this perspective by others. We get told all the time about how much we’re sacrificing to live in our rustic jungle setting. Friends tell us. Supporters tell us. Even town-dwelling PNG nationals tell us about how much we are sacrificing to live off-the-grid, in the bush, cut off from modern conveniences.
And they’re right. We DO make a lot of sacrifices to live where we live and do what we do.
What I started thinking about though, partially due to one of the chapters of a great book* I read last year, was that we don’t just make sacrifices when we choose to do something inconvenient or uncomfortable. Almost every decision we make is a sacrifice. And I’m not just talking about my family. This is true of everyone.
One of the dictionary definitions of sacrifice is “to surrender or give up, or permit injury or disadvantage to, for the sake of something else.” To surrender or give up…for the sake of something else.
Think about that for a minute.
When you go out to a restaurant and order an entre, you are sacrificing your ability to enjoy any of the other food on the menu (unless you are a total pig). When you relax in your easy chair, you are sacrificing time you could have spent exercising. When you watch Netflix, you are sacrificing time you could have spent reading.
In choosing to partake of one option, you are giving up your ability to partake in your other options. You are making a sacrifice.
If you’re like me though, and are on the narcissistic spectrum, then you probably don’t usually consider these things sacrifices. Choosing a medium-well bacon cheeseburger with fries over the vegan special doesn’t FEEL like a sacrifice. But, technically, it is.**
Every time we decide TO do something, we are deciding NOT to do a litany of other things.
It’s never a question of whether we are going to make a sacrifice. We make tons of sacrifices every day. Basically, every decision is a sacrifice. We just fail to recognize them as such. This reality is exemplified by the expression “I don’t have time to ______…”
In actuality, we all have just as much time in a day as everyone else, and just as many days in the week. We’re just not willing to make the particular sacrifice necessary to accommodate whatever it is that we would fill that blank space with. It would be more accurate to say something like, “I’m not willing to ________.”
This isn’t a criticism, mind you. It’s just an attempt to clarify the reality of the situation. We have far more ability to direct our lives than we are often willing to acknowledge.
“I can’t work overtime this weekend, because my kid has a soccer game” could be more accurately stated, “It is more important to me to be involved in my kid’s life on Saturday than it is to make that extra money.”
“I can’t afford that right now” could be “I’m not willing to go into debt for that.”
See? When we tweak the language, it’s easier to detect the sacrifice that is being made. Money was sacrificed for time with family. Instant gratification was sacrificed for financial security.
We all make sacrifices ALL THE TIME.
I was prompted to consider this concept anew when I was able to flush the toilet today without having to haul 50 pounds of water up a hill to the house. The thought had crossed my mind, “Man, what I would have given to have been able to do THAT yesterday!”
And then I stopped and actually considered it. Not just the toilet, but all the inconveniences that come with living in the jungle among the Iski: the heat and humidity, the infectious diseases, the difficulty of getting supplies, the lack of fresh fruits and vegetables, the social isolation, the impossible language barrier, the daily clash of culture…
If I was back in the States, I wouldn’t have to tolerate any of those things. My daily experience would be SO much more enjoyable!
But what would be the sacrifice?
Up until 2 years ago, the Iski had never heard the Gospel in their mother tongue. To date, only one village has heard that Good News, and on top of that, our team still has a lot of translation work to do before any of them will have access to much of the New Testament.
An entire people group’s access to God’s Word is on one side of the table. My personal comfort is on the other. The decision of which one gets axed is in my hands. I’m the one who decides which option I’m willing to sacrifice.
And as I thought about that, I thought about the 2,500 other unreached people groups in the world that don’t have access to the Gospel in their language. And I thought about the 3 billion people that are represented by those people groups. And I thought about the 84 million evangelical Christians in the U.S. that are faced with the same situation that I am considering.
And I didn’t like thinking about that. Because those numbers show very clearly what sacrifice is consistently being made by my fellow believers.
Life IS sacrifice. There’s no getting around it.
The only question is, what am I willing to sacrifice? Or, rather, WHO am I willing to sacrifice?
*Quick disclaimer: We will get a small kick-back if you purchase this book via our link. Even without that though, I would highly recommend this book.
**Just ask a vegan (and buckle-up for a LONG conversation).