Placing our children on the altar is a concept nearly every mother wrestles with at some point or another. Guest writer and uniformed military woman, Claire P. Jameson penned this week’s Firmly Rooted Friday post.
Placing My Children on the Altar
by Claire P. Jameson
It is 0500, and I sneak out of my barracks room, trying not to awaken my roommates, and into the cool, still dark of the El Paso morning. I am at the CONUS Replacement Center, otherwise known as CRC, where I have already spent the past two weeks waiting to leave the country on deployment. There is a mandatory 14-day quarantine period for all soldiers before deployment now, and, because of unforeseen delays at the medical processing site, I have been forced to do a second 14-day quarantine.
My three children are staying with their grandparents several hundred miles away.
This is the longest I have been apart from them since my last deployment, four years ago, and, since that time, we have been through a lot of heartache. Just over a year ago, I made the decision to leave an abusive marriage and become a single mom. I knew I would have at least one more deployment before my service obligation was up. I was very grateful for my parents’ offer to care for my kids while I was gone, but it has still been incredibly difficult to be apart from my children. My six-year-old son cried the first couple times we video chatted, and seeing his tears was like a punch in the gut. God, these kids have been through so much. Please strengthen, protect, and sustain them–and me.
The group of 100 or so soldiers is quarantined in a fenced-off area smaller than a city block. We are only allowed to leave to march in formation to the dining facility for meals and, for those who want to get up early, to go to a nearby running path at 0500 two days a week. We feel more like prisoners than soldiers.
My dad called last night, and I mistakenly thought I was going to get to speak to my kids.
I realized halfway through the conversation that, since he was in a time zone an hour ahead of mine, it was already past the kids’ bedtime. They were asleep. Dad was mostly calling to update me on plans for my kids’ dad’s (supervised) visit, which is planned for later this month. When I hung up, I wanted to cry. I missed my kids so much, wanted to squeeze their little bodies and tell them everything would be okay, wanted to be there to make sure everything went smoothly for their dad’s visit. And I couldn’t. I was trapped inside a small, fenced-off piece of concrete, several states away.
I poured out my heart to God in my journal last night before bed. Then I set my alarm for 0445, and went to sleep.
As I start running, I’m not sure how my muscles will feel or how far I will be able to go. We are about a mile above sea level here, and my body let me know on my past few runs that it had not yet acclimated to the altitude. However, it’s my third week here now, and I’m pleasantly surprised to find that I feel great. Maybe it’s all the pent-up frustration fueling me.
As my eyes strain against the darkness, trying not to stumble over rocks on the path, I listen to music in my earbuds for most of my run. I switch over to an audiobook for my cool down and stretching time. It’s The Pursuit of God, by A.W. Tozer. I listened to the first chapter during my first week in quarantine, but haven’t picked it up again again, until this morning.
Tozer’s words fill my ears as I walk around the running path. The sun has not yet risen, but the blackness of the sky has lightened just a bit since I started my workout.
Tozer talks about how, from the beginning, God was to be the only one on the throne of our hearts.
However, humans have always been tempted to allow people and things–good ones, like our God-given jobs, material blessings, and the children entrusted to us–to displace Him.
Tozer references the story of Abraham and Isaac, noting that Isaac was not only Abraham’s beloved son, but also the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham in a human body. It is no wonder that Abraham loved Isaac with all his heart. Tozer says that God saw how Isaac had begun to crowd him out of the throne of Abraham’s heart, and, mercifully, he told Abraham to sacrifice his son so God could once again take His rightful place. God stopped Abraham short of killing his son when it became clear that he was willing to. God loved both Abraham and Isaac with an infinite and perfect love.
Sometimes God speaks directly to us through words penned decades before we were born.
This morning, in the dark, I feel God saying, “Don’t worry, my daughter. I love you so much that I am refining you. Your children are not yours to grasp and hold onto with a tight fist. You, and they, are mine, and I must be first in your heart.”
This message is not an easy one for me to receive.
It is a weighty truth. But would I want a trite answer, something pretty, simple, and wrapped up with a bow? Of course not. Besides, there is hope underlying the heaviness.
Why is this so hard, then? No other part of my life feels so difficult to surrender. My career? My comfort? My finances? I don’t have much trouble handing these over to God. But…my kids? God, didn’t you create the bond between mother and child? Am I not meant to want to be with them, to provide for them and protect them?
And God’s answer: Yes, but not more than you are meant to want me and trust me. Who can better provide for them–and for you–than I can?
I’m grateful that God never stops refining us.
Sometimes the Refiner’s fire is hotter than I’d like, though. At times like that, I’m grateful that he is not only Refiner, but compassionate Father, beckoning me into his arms with the assurance that no one loves me more than he does.
Claire is an active duty Army officer and single mom of three living in the beautiful southeastern United States. When she’s not working, writing, or sweeping up crumbs, she enjoys running, drinking coffee, and crafting. You can connect with her on her Facebook Page and her website.