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Storyteller. Grace Dweller.

I’m Jennifer — wife of an Iowa farmer, mom to two girls, new book author. I believe in you, because I believe in Jesus. You matter to Him, and you matter to me. more »

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Wednesday 27th February 2013

#TellHisStory: Laying Down Your Isaac

A month of Wednesdays have passed since we sat in the back of the pickup truck parked outside that ramshackle hut, the hut without any windows to let in the light.


Somewhere on the dark side of that loosely-hinged door in Haiti, a baby lay limp and naked on the filthy floor.

I balled my skirt in my fists, pulling it up around my knees, and lifted my leg over the back side of the truck. My oldest daughter, Lydia, followed behind me. She stayed close to her mama, like she was afraid the darkness might seep out of the tiny hut and grab her.

I might have been a little scared myself.

We leaned against the dusty truck, waiting and praying to find out about a baby.

Two of the men in our group slipped into the tiny house to find the baby, to ask the questions that needed asking, and to do a quick examination of the child.

The baby boy had been abandoned by his mother, and had been left with his father.

But the father had been unable to feed or care for his son,
his only son,
his firstborn son.

He had no money, and no choice. Except to give him up.

The baby lolled like a limp rag in the arms of one of our men.

The father asked us if we’d take the baby away, if we’d take his son, his only son, to the orphanage. It’s not that he didn’t want the boy. He only wanted to make sure that his son might live.

Haiti mountainside

One of the women held the baby in the covered cab of the pickup. I sat in the back , in the open bed of a dusty pickup truck, with Lydia. We sat across from the father, all of us bouncing along the rocky path. We tore off, down that mountain road, headed for the orphanage. The father clenched his jaw, staring into nowhere, like he might pluck some courage out of thin air. Like maybe he was Abraham headed up the mountain with his son.

“Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”

~ Genesis 22:2

 

The pickup pulled up to the orphanage’s clinic, and we all piled out, toward an altar.

We found out the boy’s name was Steve. And we thought it such an odd name for a baby boy from Haiti. We all knew guys named Steve back in the United States. Steve was the public relations guy at the university, the car-insurance salesman, the usher at church. We giggled, maybe a bit too much, the way people do when they’re scared for the worst, but hoping for the best, and not really sure what to say.

The orphanage director took the baby into his arms. And the baby’s father followed him through the clinic doors.

There would be paperwork to sign. To make it official.

And later, that stoic Daddy held things together when, at last, it was time to go. The orphanage director put a hand on the shoulder of the father and told him he could come back anytime; this was his son.

And none of us knew if he ever would come back again.

That baby named Steve? He was no Isaac. There was no ram in the thicket. For that father, Steve stayed on the altar like a sacrifice.

***

It’s been a month now, and we’re home. And tomorrow night, I’ll go to a church with many windows and much light, and I’ll sing hymns. It’s our Lenten tradition, leading up to Easter.

Under that country steeple, I’ll think of a rocky road. I’ll remember a brave / scared father, and a skinny baby named Steve. 

I’ve given up some things at the altar before–some bad habits, dumb compulsions, lazy behaviors, and so on. But I’ve never had to lay a real Isaac on the altar. Not really.

I’ve never given up something that hurt so bad that I didn’t know if I could breathe.

But I watched a man in Haiti do it. I watched a man give up his son, because he wanted that boy to really live.

And I’ve read about a guy named Abraham, who was willing to give up his son, his only son, because He wanted to to be obedient.

And I know in my heart about another Father, who gave up His son, His only Son, because He loved the rest of enough to do the unthinkable.

To lay a child down.

When I got home from Haiti, I looked up that name, Steve. … I asked Google what the name “Steve” meant:

meaning of steve

 

The baby’s name means “Crown, garland.”

The most sacrificial and painful acts down through history have always led to the most beautiful crowns. 

The greatest sacrifices of the bravest Daddies bring about the most glorious crowns.

And they shine.

But I won’t forget, that somewhere tonight, a father will sleep in a dark, windowless hut without his baby boy.

(And here’s Steve.)

 

So, what’s your Story? A #TellHisStory is any story that connects your story into the story of God. From now through Easter, I encourage you to consider stories that center around our Lenten journey, as we move toward the cross and resurrection of our Savior. (However, you are free to share any story that God is speaking into your life this week.)

To participate in the #TellHisStory linkup, simply:

1. Write your #TellHisStory post, from your heart, straight onto your blog. A #TellHisStory is any story that connects YOUR STORY into the story of God. What story is God telling in your life this week?

2. Link here and invite friends to join in by posting the #TellHisStory badge on your post.

3. Copy the permalink of your post.

4. Using the linky tool, paste your link in.

5. Find someone (or two) in the link-up to encourage with a comment.

6. Come back on Friday to visit our Featured #TellHisStory, in the sidebar.

Your words matter to God. They matter to people. And they matter to me!

~Jennifer

 

Our featured writer tip this week comes from award-winning journalist Ken Fuson. Find his wise words by clicking here.

 



  • http://3dlessons4life.wordpress.com 3dLessons4Life

    What a heartbreaking story! Praying tonight for baby Steve and for his sacrificial, selfless Papa.

    Have you read “Laying Down My Isaac” by Carol Kent? it’s one of my favorite books..

    • dukeslee

      Thank you for those prayers for Steve. No, I have not read the book, but I know about it. I thought about that book tonight as I wrote this post, and wrote that headline. Thanks sweet friend.

    • Jillie

      Just want to give further endorsement to Carol Kent’s book. It is really excellent! Do read it, Jennifer, if you get the chance.

  • http://kendalprivette.blogspot.com kendalprivette

    oh. that is all.

  • http://ourhealingmoments.com RinaPeru

    Steve is quite a common name here in the Philippines, too, Jennifer. That father, Steve’s, he was brave.

  • http://twitter.com/KrisCamealy Kris Camealy (@KrisCamealy)

    Thank you for this story, for reminding me of the ultimate sacrifice–for reminding me to be willing. My heart is both broken for this Father and overwhelmed by the goodness of Christ.

  • http://redemptionsbeauty.com Shelly Miller

    This story conjures up so many emotions for me. It gives me pause and makes me grateful for what I take for granted. Praying for Steve and that Daddy this morning.

  • http://tuningmyhearttopraise.blogspot.com/ ro elliott

    What a heart breaking story…I can’t imagine having to make such a difficult choice…the ultimate sacrifice the love of someone else…may I sacrifice first for the love of Christ….and for the love of others…thanks you Jennifer…blessings~

  • http://lindy-whoami.blogspot.com lindy

    Beautiful story! My friends here in Minnesota run a feeding center/orphanage in Haiti called “Children of the Promise”. This story reminds me of what all of those families go through when they leave their babies in someone else’s care.

  • http://www.theresomethingdifferent.blogspot.com Alecia

    What a heartbreaking story. Little Steve is precious! I can’t even imagine what his father must be going through, but hopefully knowing that his little boy is being well taken care of is bringing him some peace. Thank for sharing your stories from your trips and getting the word out of those suffering in other parts of the world. How else would we know how to pray for them? Thank you.

  • http://www.kristinhilltaylor.com Kristin Hill Taylor

    Well, now I have chills. Thanks for sharing this bittersweet story.

    Oh, and, hey, you could have brought Steve to me. :)

  • http://godspotting.net Sheila Seiler Lagrand

    Such a cruel and hard and loving choice that daddy made. God bless him. And Steve.

    And you.

  • http://megandwillome.wordpress.com Megan Willome

    It is clear that from now on, you’ll always think of Steve when you read the story of Issac. And now, so will we.

  • http://asoftgentlevoice.blogspot.ca/ Rebekah

    Jennifer, you broke my heart here and pointed me to hope at the same time! I was just talking to another Mom on Sunday about laying our Isaacs on the alter–really, I have no idea what this truly means.
    You got me in the gut and I say thank you for opening my eyes to this story reflecting the greatest Story!
    Thank you for your comment on my post, I am humbled that you could be encouraged by my story! Amazing Grace all round!!

  • http://sandraheskaking.com/ Sandra Heska King

    Oh my, Jennifer. That breaks my heart, and yet I rejoice for the life that was saved.

    I wrote about Abby today on her birthday–and thinking of her birth mom’s courage–how she lay her baby down.

  • Floyd

    How heart wrenching is that? I struggle with all the grace shed on my life… I have to trust my Father’s sovereign plan… and pray for that dad and Steve…

  • http://OurStoriesGodsGlory.blogspot.com Elise Daly Parker

    Wow…I am in the library so can’t sob, wracking with sadness and joy. I can only let tears quietly trickle. So powerful…and your analogy is Truth and Life. God bless Steve and his loving father. Oh….

  • http://www.4slphotography.com/ Lisa @ {4}SLP

    ahhh, wordless, i am simply wordless,

    The most sacrificial and painful acts down through history have always led to the most beautiful crowns.

    i believe that with all my heart… beautiful, and sad, and life wrecking really, but then somehow so redemptive.

  • http://savedbygracebiblestudy.blogspot.com/ Laurie Collett

    What a beautiful, inspiring post! Thanks for hosting & God bless!

  • http://alifesurrendered.wordpress.com Michele {A Life Surrendered}

    Oh, so much more than just a story. What a powerful impact in these words, and the actions of real people making real sacrifices I know so little about making. This helps prepare my heart for my trip. I wonder how many fathers and Steve’s I’ll meet while I am there. Thank you for you heart and your love. Thank you.

  • http://underthecoverofprayer.wordpress.com Janis Cox

    OH what a lovely story – heartbreaking and inspiring at the same time. THank you for sharing this.
    Blessings,
    Janis http://www.janiscox.com

  • http://susanstilwell.com Susan Stilwell

    Beautiful, Jennifer. Your story made me think about a lot of things, namely author/speaker Carol Kent’s testimony (When I Lay My Isaac Down). Completely different circumstances, but equally heartbreaking.

    Second, my husband’s name is Steve and he’s a wonderful dad :)
    Hugs from VA

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  • http://youaremygirls.com Jennifer Camp

    Jennifer, thank you, just thank you.

  • http://jesussavingmefromme.wordpress.com micey

    Been to Haiti 4 times now. Don’t know if I’ll ever be able to wrap my head around the love it takes to give up a child. Thanks!

  • http://lauraboggess.com laura

    Steve is so beautiful. It’s true, I’ve never really had to lay down my Isaac, have I? How can the world be so lopsided, Jennifer? It breaks my heart wide open.

  • http://soulstops.com Dolly@Soulstops

    oh, my hear,t when I think of Steve’s father…losing his wife and now his son…praying right now for God’s comfort for him, and that there would be a way for him to be reunited with his son…

  • http://soulstops.com Dolly@Soulstops

    P.S. Thank you, Jennifer, for going, and telling us.

  • http://twitter.com/nancyfranson Nancy Franson (@nancyfranson)

    Oh my heavens, girl. Remember when you used to call your link-up God-bumps? Well, after reading this, I’m feeling them.

    When my son graduated from high school, he wanted to join the military. He has some learning disabilities and doesn’t love academics, and we were advised that the military might be a very good option for him. When we went to the recruiting office, I truly felt as though as though I was laying my Isaac down on an altar and accepting the possibility of harm or death for my son. Ultimately, through unmistakable divine intervention, he did not join. But every time I hear the account of Abraham and Isaac, I see myself sitting right there in front of that recruiter.

    And, as an adoptive mom, I know every day that I reap the blessing of another’s loving decision to let go.

  • Jillie

    Oh Jennifer…This one is going in my ‘archives’. My heart breaks wide open for this father and his supreme loving act in giving up his son that he might really live! Thank you so much for telling your Haiti stories for those of us who cannot go. I pray for this father and for baby Steve. And thank you also, for sharing Hope in this story. Maybe, one day, Steve and his Daddy can be reunited. I pray so.

  • http://thoughtsonbookss.blogspot.ca/ Cathy

    What a beautiful story and a beautiful little baby boy. Glad I stopped by today. :)

  • Karen

    This story was not a “feel-good” story for me as it was for many of you. We all DO need to lay down before God that which is most precious to us, including our children. However, this is NOT an example of a person “laying down their Isaac”. This is an example of injustice masquerading as justice.

    It is NOT godly justice to separate a poverty-stricken parent from a child when the parent loves and wants the child with them.

    I suspect the measure of the father’s gratitude for the orphanage is probably balanced by hatred of it for taking his child instead of offering other help. From an inner healing perspective, what kinds of wounds are slashed in the hearts of this father and this child?

    I understand that charitable organizations have limited resources and that the need in many places is great; that is irrelevant. God’s resources are infinite. “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you may abound in every good work.” (2 Corinthians 9:8)

    A better decision would have been to have had both parent and child come live at the orphanage and employed the father in some capacity. This would have given him the dignity of work for room & board and allowed both father and child to maintain that extremely important relationship.

    Karen

  • http://www.facebook.com/hazel.i.moon.1 Hazel Irene Moon

    Praise God for Christian clinics and orphanages that will accept babies and children and give then an opportunity to serve Jesus. Our missionary friends in Honduras have a similar home and their brood of 50 is growing.

  • http://ilovemylemonadelife.com Debbie Baker Burns

    Wow…I just stumbled upon your blog while blog surfing. Such a sad but beautiful story. Debbie @ ilovemylemonadelife.com

  • http://gravatar.com/nancyaruegg Nancy Ruegg

    So many heartaches in this world, including the situation of Steve’s dad. What courage. I pray they might be reunited one day soon in a miraculous redemption, proving once again the power and love of our awesome God!

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@JeannieCunnion Thank you for sharing Jeannie.