They were newlyweds.
He worked on finishing college, she was my teacher. I was the shy, overweight teen they took an interest in. They made time for me, spoke Truth to me, taught me what God said about marriage. Though they lived on a starting teacher's salary, somehow they scraped together enough money to buy me a study Bible that became my life line for years to come. The actual time spent in my life spanned a year and half, but the spiritual investment left a permanent mark.
Did they know their efforts would make such a difference? Did they have any idea how much the gift of their time and that Bible would shape me? Were they aware their sweet words and confidence in me would build me up so? Did they know their training would help me establish a strong, healthy, fulfilling marriage?
They made a sacrifice and I am better for it.
My mother never went to college though she wanted to. She moved away from home at a young age, got a job, fell in love, got married and unexpectedly had me when she was 21. From then on out, choices were made based on what was best for the kids and her being busy in college didn't seem advantageous for us. She never got there.
But her kids did. Because she made it so. Who can count the other ways our mother gave up to make sure our lives were better than hers?
I was on the receiving end again last fall as my friend's untimely migraine put me in a position to hear a tender word from God.
It's a consistent theme of God's, using the sacrifice of one for the benefit of others.
Joseph's rejection by his brothers, his stint as a slave, his unfair imprisonment and subsequent rise to power perfectly placed him to save the lives of the very people who put him in Egypt.
We wish the poor Israelites could have figured out their issues so they wouldn't have wandered around the desert for 40 years, but their journey left a trail that teaches future GENERATIONS. For all time. Most of them didn't enter the Promised Land so WE could be warned of the danger of disobedience.
Job suffered terribly so we would understand God is God.
The theme reverberates in movies. The struggles and sacrifices of one, which are beyond the ability to repay, benefit others in huge ways. Think Les Misérables, Life is Beautiful, Mr. Holland's Opus, Billy Elliot, A Beautiful Mind.
It touches us deeply because it demonstrates Truth. It echoes the gospel. Isn't this what Jesus' death and resurrection are about? God gave up His only Son for the sake of mankind, in hope of eternal relationship with us.
It makes me look at my difficulties differently. Is it possible God redeems our struggles, makes them truly count, not for us, but in the life of another? Will our troubles make life better for someone else? Will our perseverance in doing right, no matter how hard, show up as a positive result in the lives of people we love?
When I lay awake at night worrying about my kids and spend time in prayer for them, I may not feel much relief, but what does it do for them? Will my middle of the night pleas benefit them, bring them comfort and guidance and direction, though I struggle through sleepless nights?
How might my struggles help someone else? Will all the hard times I don't understand culminate in blessing for another along the way? Will someone be helped, warned, encouraged? The thought of my pain being useful for someone else almost makes it worth it, you know?
Are you willing to muddle through trials for the sake of another?