“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:1-2)
As I dropped Gracie and Jimmy off at school, I started reciting the verses I’d been memorizing this past week. Romans 12:1 came out in the bunch of them, and I wanted to end its recitation with a question mark…”which is your spiritual worship?” What does that mean?
The warm colors of autumn saturated the world around me, and falling leaves flitted over my windshield as I maneuvered the twisting roads of Central New York. I was overheating, but I knew it was nearly freezing outside.
“To present your bodies as a living sacrifice…”
Obviously, life is going to change very soon. I mean, it has changed already. I had planned on being in Brooklyn this time of the season, finishing out my senior year at Pratt, but God had something different in mind and worked on my heart to keep me home, and prepare me for married life with Jacob. And while I do not regret that decision or doubt it was the best one I could’ve made, I am struck by how things have changed.
I’m even thinking back nearly four years ago, when I began this blog, as I prepared to go to New York City for school. I had planned on going to Colorado Christian University in Colorado Springs, and yet, there I was, road tripping further east with my mom, all my stuff strapped into the bed of my dad’s pick up truck. How many things over the past few years have gone so differently than I’d expected? How many times did I feel horribly uncomfortable, only to end up on the other side, realizing that my desire for comfort was holding me back from experiencing all that God wanted for me?
And if I look back even on the past month, God has shown me over and over again that comfort is something I have to give up. I have to give up the desire to be comfortable, to do what is easy and requires the least amount of growth, change, pain, or instability. I have to choose Him, and nothing else.
Within the last two weeks, I’ve spent over thirty hours traveling via bus, lost my luggage, gone without power, ventured out into the winds and dirty floods of the hurricane, gone without proper clothing for the elements (flip-flops in thirty-degree weather, shorts for cold nights, etc.), and had greasy hair and gone without showering for the better part of the time. And even as I’m typing this list, I’m seeing how absolutely trivial and unimportant all of those things are in light of God’s purpose for me and desire for the world. And it was wonderful to see Him work on my heart as I experienced the little (very little) discomforts of traveling and such.
“‘Therefore, I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25)
I recall a conversation Jacob and I had while I was last visiting him (oh, how cool will it be when it’s no longer us visiting each other, and it’s instead people visiting us?). He talked about comfort and how it’s something God never promises us. His words were a challenge to yet again focus less on the details of a situation (e.g., “what you will eat or what you will drink….what you will put on”) and instead focus more on God’s overarching vision for my life, his life, and the lives of those who make up the body of Christ.
“I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:10-13, emphasis added)
I want to know what this is like. What is it like to not fear change? What would life be like if I lacked concern for my own comfort? What could God do through me if I let go of the desire for a cushiony, fluffy, stable life that God actively promises against? In my following of God, He promises that I will have to make ridiculously difficult decisions, that it will be hard, that I’ll be broken, not just physically, but spiritually as I allow my desires, hopes, dreams, perspectives, and passions to conform completely to His, as I seek to “present my body as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.”
I don’t think “my body” is referring to only my physical self, though, if it is only referring to my physical self, that certainly covers a lot. It negates concern for, yep, comfort of ALL kinds, people-pleasing through physical appearance, self-harm, abuse of food and drink, attachment to clothing (I’m specifically thinking of times when it would be loving to give up a jacket or something to someone else, without concern for my own warmth), and complaining (“I’m traveling and left my sweatpants at home, the trip is now ruined.” No, it’s really not. They’re just sweatpants.).
CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION
What I draw from Romans 12:1-2 is this:
- Comfort must be sacrificed in order to truly follow Christ.
- There is freedom in “presenting myself as a living sacrifice.”
- Being “transformed by the renewal of my mind” will send me in a direction contrary to the one in which the world is traveling.
How do I apply this…
Well…I was putting in my contacts this morning and realized that my eye doctor will change, where I get contacts from will change, and then I of course spiraled into trying to figure out how I could magically have perfect eyesight so that I wouldn’t have to go through the process of all that change. Ridiculous, I know. I have been thinking about things like this a lot as the wedding date approaches. I’ve been clinging to a lot of things as I pack my life into boxes that I really could leave behind. So many things will change.
I will be living in a different house…our house. I will be surrounded by people who are not my mom, dad, brother, and sister. I will be attending a chapel on post instead of a church in small town America. I will be dependent instead of independent. The weather will be different. My very name will be different…
And yet, because of God’s awesomeness, and His ability to transcend all change, and His other, also awesome ability to transform my heart and mind to be much more like His, none of this has to be scary. Jesus is my home…I had a greater understanding of what that meant before I left for New York City, when I would be in a new place, with new people, new challenges, and new adventures. And now, as the change is even greater and closer and will affect me much more deeply, He is still my home. He is familiar, and constant, and unchanging. Yes, Jacob and I will in a way become home to each other, but (not to sound morbid) we’ll both die eventually and leave each other through that. So, above Jacob being a home to me, which he absolutely and most certainly is and will be, God will be a surer, more secure, immutable home for me, as He has been, and always will be.
I’m finding that following Christ is more…fun 🙂 when I sacrifice my comfort, when I give into His desires instead of clinging so tightly to my own. Life is considerably less miserable, and actually full of joy and happiness (as corny as that sounds 😛 ) when I’m seeking to obey Christ, to follow Him, to, again, “present my body as a living sacrifice.”
So I can embrace change with confidence, knowing that there is freedom in sacrificing comfort for following God to where He takes me, and understanding that, in every change to follow, He will still be there.