[dropcap3]D[/dropcap3]uring my four years at PBU, I have come to the realization that sacrifice is not one Herculean task that must be overcome. It is instead a lifestyle of learning to live in humility and grace. The whirring of a deck of cards being shuffled reminds me of the continual process of learning to sacrifice. Just as each card cedes to the one after it in order to produce a well-shuffled deck, so do we as believers make small changes in every stage of life that produce a lifetime of sacrifice. My very wise younger brother once reminded me that we don’t make all “big” decisions in our lives. Instead, we make series of minute, millisecond decisions which, when taken together, characterize our lives.
This past year was a difficult time for me to be both a believer and a student at PBU. I was battling to carry a full load of classes, work part time, volunteer at my church, stand in as president of the student social work organization, play intramural sports, and lead a Bible study at Temple University. At home, I fought a very different kind of battle as I watched my mother slowly die from malignant brain cancer. My heart lived a split life: half at PBU and half at home, where my father devoted himself to the full-time care of my mom. It took every scrap of courage and discipline that the Spirit gave me to remain enrolled at PBU while I longed to quit and move home. However, my parents both affirmed the Spirit’s leading to stay on campus. Weekend trips home, which had previously been a luxury, became a necessity. I missed multiple Sundays with my beloved church family in Philadelphia. I turned down offers to attend events in order to finish assignments. My pride was broken many times as I learned what it meant to depend wholly on the body of believers for help at every turn. However, at no point did I feel that I was making a large sacrifice or that I was doing something enormous. I was simply aware that every day included multiple sacrifices— cards folding in on each other—but to what end, I could not foresee.
The sacrifices I was led to make began to give me insight into the ultimate sacrifice that Christ made for His bride. I very distinctly remember coming to this realization late one agonizing night toward the end of the spring semester. I was the last one awake in our apartment, huddled on the couch, surrounded by soggy tissues. I’ve got it all upside down, I finally realized. I thought Jesus came to earth to understand my suffering, when in reality, I have been granted suffering to learn about His sacrifice! From that night on, my attitude toward sacrifice was indelibly changed. If sacrifices are necessary in order for me to grow as a believer, of what importance are my personal goals? Of what importance is that certain social event I wanted to attend? Of what importance are my grades? Of what importance is the approval of that certain person? Of what importance are my selfish wants? They are simply small cards falling on one another, reshuffling my priorities. They all—to a one— pale in comparison to the importance of learning to participate in the fellowship of the sufferings of Christ.
My mother went home to be with Jesus in March of 2010. Although her physical absence has left a very large hole in my heart, I know the One who can fill it. His presence surrounds and strengthens me moment by moment. My experience over the past year is not unique to me. More and more students are facing terminally ill parents, deaths in the family, broken homes, abusive situations, loss of funds, and crumbling emotional stability. I may even venture to say that my story represents the norm rather than the exception. But perhaps, dear friends, we have been granted these lessons in sacrifice in order to reach out hands of grace and compassion to other students who are battling through the same emotions.
This was not the only time I had been dealt a hand of sacrifice during my PBU career. In 2009, I spent a semester studying abroad in Uganda. This was solely at the express urging of the Spirit, despite my protests to remain in Langhorne with my comfortable surroundings and familiar friends. The things I learned during that semester have forever altered how I perceive the heart of my faith and my responsibility to God’s people. During my sophomore year, I sacrificed going to a local, suburban, middle-class white church to explore churches in the city. The grace of God provided me with an amazing home in the Chinese Christian Church + Center in Philadelphia. This past semester, I accepted an internship position in a low-income South Philly neighborhood. I have sacrificed huge amounts of time and comfort—mostly fighting traffic on Interstate 95— in order to serve the people who so desperately need the love of the Lord. The sacrifices that the Spirit helps me make every week are cultivating in me a heart and a passion for the lost and alone of cities.
Through it all, I still hear the whirr of cards in my mind. It is there reminding me that believers have not only one monumental sacrifice to make during their lifetime. Instead, we all have lifetimes of sacrifices to make, some small and some great. It is the only way to even begin to comprehend the love of a Savior who would sacrifice the dearest thing on earth or out of the earth—His life—to rescue His people. It is with true thanksgiving that I can turn to Christ with eyes full of wonder and worship Him for allowing me to participate in His sacrifice.
Lillie Ostoich ’11 is a senior in the Department of Social Work. Recently, she was a part of a team of students who presented Students Advocating for Orphans, a student-led program formed to raise awareness of the need for Christian foster and adoptive homes domestically and abroad, at the annual conference of North American Association of Christians in Social Work.