I tear open the package and unfold the navy blue robes, untangle the tassel that loops around the little hat. All I can think is that under all this shiny material, this hat is just cardboard. Its taken four years to get here, and I really can’t imagine it being over, even if the ceremony is two weeks away now. For some reason, the feel of the cardboard and the simplicity of the robe itself makes me think back on so many things that have occurred in those past four years that aren’t school related. For four years of growing and changing, they present me with something so simple to wear. I wanted to learn. and that was the whole point of getting to this end goal of standing here in geeky robes and a ceremonial tassel hanging from my head. It all feels very temporary, though I know my very spirit, and mind, and every part of me has been changed by this experience of the grand endeavor of a Bachelor’s degree. Looking myself over in the mirror, straightening the embroidered stole on my shoulders, I realize how much I have had to leave behind to get here, and how much I have gained. This is the nature of sacrifice: laying down something for something greater.
The word tells us to present ourselves as a living sacrifice. By the very definition of the word ‘living,’ we are changing, moving, learning people. We never stop asking questions and looking for the next step. It seems that the two words contradict each other—sacrifice and living. Sacrifices are dead. Sacrifices have been laid aside as an offering of honor and reverence to God. Their make-up has been changed by fire. This passage in Romans 12 continues the idea that we are to changing and growing, transforming our minds to be renewed and see things from a different perspective. From a higher perspective. If we are to call ourselves sacrifices, and also call ourselves living, we must renew our perspective.
Recently, I’ve been asking a lot of questions, none of which have been answered by burying my nose in a textbook. Why is the world the way it is? Why does God work the way he does? What makes the human mind function the way it does, craving relationship and yet guarding itself when things get too easy? In all of my questioning, God has answered me simply: “I am sufficient.”
In this big mystery of a world he has created, I have to remind myself that I’m not entitled to answers. I’m entitled to follow and learn along the way. This is another aspect of defining yourself as a living sacrifice; your shortcomings and your questions have been burned away. Sacrifice, by its nature, can’t be reversed. Once you’ve presented yourself before the Cross, you cannot look back. You cannot turn away now, and even if you did, you would still leave changed. If you ignored everything Jesus had for you, he’d still have a call to your life. Day to day, you are faced with your insecurities and your failures and all of the reasons not to commit to him, but you must know that you don’t have to define yourself by them anymore.
This is where the opportunity comes in. Learning and changing and growing are all part of the make-up of our minds as humans: that’s what they’re made to do. Take in this world around us and give definition to it. The thing is, as Christians, we’ve got a higher perspective. That might seem presumptuous, but do you realize we’ve got the mind of Christ? A share in the mind that created the heavens and the earth. If that isn’t enough of a reason to lay down your insecurities and let yourself dream away, I don’t know what is. Sure, it seems scary. It seems like exactly the kind of thing you’d be likely to mess up, having endless freedom to dream and think as big as you can. But on the other side of the coin, it’s the biggest honor and opportunity you will receive.
In the middle of my college career, I switched schools. I made the jump to return home and spend more time in ministry and in deeper relationships. This brought up a lot of worries in me. That I was devaluing the opportunity of higher education, that the outcome wasn’t going to be all I thought. But I am so much better for having made the change, and not because I learned anything I couldn’t have learned elsewhere, academically speaking. But because I laid down something that I held as important, to watch it develop into something greater, and while I haven’t changed the world (yet) I’ve watched the world change and become more like the Kingdom of God everyday, through people who have found their way out of homelessness and addiction and into a greater life.
My choice to make the change wasn’t the end of the world, because I’ve got to remember how small I am in the grand scheme of things. But also because God works everything together for our good, and the good of those who love him. This means opportunity awaits. Once we commit ourselves as sacrifices, once we vow to leave all else behind and seek the Kingdom, a new opportunity is open to us to take the world in our hands and bring it back to him. Then, we are presented with a simple robe that reflects his light. That defines us as part of the family. The cost was easy to add up. Why not choose to lay everything else aside, when its already counted as lost? What’s before you is greater, even when it gets difficult to see. So we exist like Isaac did, sacrifices and yet alive, on a journey we know will have a great end. Things will get difficult, but we must remind ourselves who we are. And remind ourselves that while the sacrifice took no time to prepare, the learning to live as one is part of the journey too.