“I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel, will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age … and in the age to come, eternal life.”
Mark 10: 29-30
People in general don’t like making sacrifices, and young people, it seems, are especially reluctant to let go of the things they enjoy for the sake of an unseen or future reward. But when God lays it on the the heart of a teenager that something’s got to go, that teenager just might surprise you. And he or she just might get surprised at what transpires, as well.
Our daughter Joanna always loved the Lord dearly. She seemed to enjoy the praise and worship music at church and the contemporary Christian music we played on the local radio station. But somewhere along the way secular music started seeping into our home, and although I didn’t object to the idea of secular music per se, as a parent (and former teen), I knew some lyrics could be inappropriate for a Christian to be listening to.
Joanna’s favorite secular songs were fairly innocuous, but when she bought a CD of her favorite band, a few of their songs made me cringe. When I questioned her about them, I was met with an eye roll and assurance that they weren’t the songs she liked on that album. I dropped the subject and decided I would just pray about it for then.
The weekend of the high school retreat was a quiet one at our house until I answered the phone late Friday night.
I could hear loud music and singing in the background. Apparently the kids were really getting “into” the worship. But something else grabbed my attention: Joanna was crying.
“Mom?” she sobbed.
“What it it, honey?”
“Would you do something for me?”
“You know that _____________ CD?”
“Yeah. Would you go get it?”
“OK … Got it.”
“Are you holding it?”
“I want you to break it.” (I’ll skip the dialogue where I made sure she was serious and wasn’t going to be livid with me when she got home.) I agreed and did as she said, although I must say, they made those things tough! I struggled for some time while Joanna impatiently kept crying, “Just break it!” (“I’m trying!“) She said she’d explain when she got home, but I already knew God was doing something that weekend.
As I suspected, the youth leader, Chad, had been speaking to the youth about dedicating themselves to the Lord in every area of their lives, including entertainment. Chad had always been passionate about bringing kids into a strong relationship with Christ, and his messages were as emotional as he was. Joanna had commented once, “Even when he yells at us, we can tell he loves us.” During the closing, as the students sang and some went forward for special prayer, God had been dealing with Joanna about the songs she had been listening to. And Joanna had responded in a characteristically emotional outpouring of devotion.
Back home, she spent the rest of the day sitting on the floor in her room in tears, breaking CD’s and pulling tape out of cassettes, until a pile of shards and streamers surrounded her.
I sat next to her and told her how proud I was, but that didn’t seem to cheer her up much. I suggested she take the shards and tape and make a piece of art out of them as a gift for Chad. We got two pieces of driftwood from the beach and nailed them together to make a cross. Joanna then used the tape to hang pieces of broken CDs. Joanna thought it looked like “junk.” I liked it and assured her that Chad would love it.
We named the masterpiece “Sacrifice.”
I was right. When presented with his gift, Chad got tears in his eyes (He and Joanna related.), and said it was about the greatest gift he’d ever received. He told us that he would hang it in his office, to encourage him next time he started feeling that none of the kids were listening to him.
“So, how do you feel now that you’ve purged that music out of your collection?” he asked her, smiling.
“I feel terrible,” she answered frankly, tearing up again. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to listen to now!”
Chad knew just what to do. He brought us to his study, where he had shelves full of dozens, if not hundreds of CD’s – all Christian music.
“I have pretty much every style of music you would like. And you can borrow any of it any time you want. There’s a lot here I think you’d love.”
That day opened up a whole new world for Joanna. She discovered great Christian artists that she could listen to all she wanted, guilt-free. Never without an opinion, she began writing reviews of new albums every month for the youth group newsletter. When a well-known Christian band was in the area for a concert, as a published “music critic,” Joanna was given a backstage pass to interview the band members in their dressing room. (An official badge told the world she was not a “groupie” but a bona fide member of the press!) Her peers had to admit this was “totally awesome.” I was elated for her.
But what made me happiest was knowing that she had obeyed the voice of God, not knowing whether or not she would ever gain anything from the sacrifice she was making.
After all, that is the definition of “sacrifice.”