Sacrifice and offering

I TRIED aerobics. I learned a great deal about celery. I tried willpower and fad diets. Being heavy was causing me problems. Nothing helped, and I felt at the end of my rope. It had never occurred to me to pray about the situation until someone mentioned the word ``sacrifice.'' One New Year's Eve my friend used this word, and I began to think about its religious meaning. He had made a new-year resolution to give up cigars and considered it ``quite a sacrifice.'' He suggested that I sacrifice eating sweets. Many people would say that giving up a bad habit, but one thought to be pleasurable, is a sacrifice. Yet throughout the Bible the concept of sacrifice is not that of giving up bad things but of giving your best. The Hebrews didn't lay their scrawny old sheep on the altar. The Bible says, ``Thou shalt not sacrifice unto the Lord thy God any bullock, or sheep, wherein is blemish.'' 1 What the Hebrews gave was the very best they had. So giving up a bad habit is perhaps only the beginning of sacrifice. It is the uncovering of what is good in us that enables us to make an offering. For example, an athlete who gives up smoking for the sake of the game isn't just sacrificing a bad habit; he's giving of himself in increased strength and integrity of thought. The emphasis is on what he gives to the game more than on what he gives up. Such a concept of sacrifice didn't automatically end my struggle to do right. Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded Christian Science, writes, ``The habitual struggle to be always good is unceasing prayer.'' 2 Yet the joy of offering shines like a promise through this struggle. As I studied the word ``sacrifice'' my emphasis changed. Instead of trying to lose weight I devoted myself to gaining a better understanding of myself as God's image and likeness, which is how the Bible describes our real selfhood.3 I began reading the Bible instead of poring over the latest diet book. I began acknowledging that strength comes from God, and relying on Him instead of on my own willpower. It was a yielding, not a pushing. As I yielded I had a great desire to deepen my sacrifice with offering. I began looking for ways to give. At first I felt discouraged. I figured that I had so many faults to give up that it would be a long time before I was good enough to have anything to give. Then I noticed that in the Bible, people who were too poor to have a bullock or a sheep didn't stay away from the altar of worship. Instead they offered whatever they did have, such as a pair of turtledoves. I had been staying away from the altar because I believed that I didn't have a great big ``ox'' of perfection to offer. Now I began looking for--and finding--little ``turtledoves'' of joy and gratitude. By offering small things--moments of prayer, encouragement to a co-worker, an effort to do some small chore perfectly--I found I immediately had more to give. This outpouring changed my life. I stopped seeing life as a series of constant losses, of things being given up or taken away. I had an increase d sense of gain, of fulfillment. Although I was still heavy, I felt more and more that I was absent from the body and present with the Lord--that is, I tried to put God first. Often I forgot all about my weight while involved in church activities or while studying Christian Science. How grateful I was the next New Year's Eve to realize that I had gradually lost all the excess weight and that my health had returned to normal. Anyone who feels desperate, or who is struggling to overcome a bad habit, can find peace. God leads us tenderly, step by step, on our struggle to the altar, and teaches us all how much we have to give--and receive-- as His beloved children. 1 Deuteronomy 17:1. 2 Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, p. 4. 3 See Genesis 1:26.

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