“A gift is pure when it is given from the heart to the right person at the right time and at the right place, and when we expect nothing in return.” - Bhagavad Gita
Living a life daily at Moriah's altar is a heart-wrenching experience. Ironically, for such a sacred venue it doesn't feel sanctified at all. I stand without hope, at a lonely, painful and exposed place that couldn't feel further away from God. He gives me the choice, to know that at any moment I can walk down from the mount: forget the pain, leave behind the loneliness and find someone who loves me and gives me reason to smile every day for the rest of my life. He's taken away the hope of both finding some ram in the thicket and also, more painfully, of seeing some sign that all this sacrifice is accepted by Him. And the longer I stay the more damage I do--the less I become a happy person, the more pain I inflict upon my psyche, the less I am able to look beyond myself to see the needs of others, loving less the God who asks me to stand there like a fool.
A couple weeks ago I visited the Sacred Grove. I can say honestly that I know much of how Joseph must have felt as he walked onto that hallowed ground--unsure of which path to take, confused by different voices calling in every direction. And to a small extent, to have hope and faith that like Joseph, God would answer the prayer of a young man so confused, and so earnest, and so humbled. Despite my righteous desire to know God's will, despite my faith that He would answer, despite the fact that He should have answered, I left feeling empty, unsure of everything.
Instead of some great victory or triumph, I am forced to live a life of daily failure. Of constantly believing that no matter how much I am asked to give--how much I try to give--it is not enough, nor will it ever be. One step forward, and two steps back. Even with my best efforts I'm still further away then I have ever been.
I fully expect that at some point in my life my Church membership will be taken from me. Despite sacrificing more than I think I ever could as I walk in the darkness toward Him, I know that eventually I'll make a mistake (how could I not when at every moment of my life I desire to?) and an unsympathetic bishop will convene a council of unsympathetic men that will tell me--in the name of God--that my all wasn't nearly good enough.
God says He wants my heart, but when I try to offer it to Him, He won't take it. I plead with Him almost daily to just rip it out, take it from me. It doesn't work right. Instead of one final blow though, He insists on pulling, pressing and pounding it so I can feel poignantly the bruised organ beating in my body. He leaves me a broken heart, seemingly to remind me of the hurt caused by mistaken promises, to let me have a taste of what it might be like to feel love, and then to ache for it, knowing it will never be fulfilled.
And the 'eternal reward'? There is no reward for constant failure. Scripture makes it clear that God will not except a blemished sacrifice--but I have nothing else to offer. And so I stand at the altar, placing on it everything I want and think I need. Binding there my desires for love and romance and family. Giving Him my happiness and my hope.
There is no "ram caught in a thicket" (Genesis 22:13) here, nor is there the God who asks all this of me.