There’s a powerful image in Western iconography of Abraham’s son Isaac bound on an altar; Abraham with sacrificial knife raised; a hovering angel staying his hand; a substitute offering, a ram, caught in a nearby thicket.
The story is about faith and surrender, and raises lots of questions it’s worth doing some thinking and journaling about:
- To whom or what do you surrender? Why?
- Which voices do you listen to, inner and outer?
- What kind of faith must one have to even contemplate sacrificing any child?
- Is your devotion to the divine the standard you most value and act by? Is there some requirement of belief so great you would never obey?
- Can you truly know your faith without having it tested? Is sacrifice necessary to validate it?
- And what happens if you turn the story on its head, and look through Isaac’s eyes?
- What binds you?
- What limits your options in life?
- Are these constraints imposed by others, or by you?
Life offers us many opportunities to wrestle with these issues. They’re rarely this dramatic or potentially lethal. But every day we make choices: big ones and little.
Concepts like surrender and trust can be teachers. They can help us to approach every choice we make as a holy act. Thinking about each Yes or each No in a holy way helps cultivate awareness. Not just intellectually but viscerally.
This process is more than taking your spiritual cod liver oil. It’ll help you strengthen your core values and also help you make better choices. Choices that’ll influence your long-run beingness as well as your short-run happiness.
As long as we’re here in human form, it all comes back to how we act and how we live. Every time we act with deeper awareness and intention can be a holy act.