There were many difficult things about the earliest days of the pandemic, but the hardest thing for me – more complicated even than tracking down toilet paper – was trying to explain the restrictions to my youngest son. He went to sleep one night and woke up to a very different world. I didn’t have the words to explain it to myself, let alone to my baby boy.

His was the first of the quarantine birthdays for our family, the first to wade through the murky waters of celebrating without the usual routines. As a preschooler, his isolation was especially profound. Playgrounds were closed, and the schools never found a way to truly facilitate the special education preschool over distance. We had our zoom meetings and virtual gatherings; his brother found some community connecting with his friends on Roblox.

But Ezra…he had us. And that was it.

We did everything we could to make it a good, if small, world for him.

When we did see people, outdoors and through windows, we tried to prepare him for the reality of what that visit was going to look like. Ezra’s first instinct in social situations is to give hugs and kisses and be as physically close as possible; the polar opposite of what was necessary.

We tried explaining the virus; how dangerous it was and how important it was not to pass it around. That we didn’t want him to get sick. He was unimpressed with those concerns.

What eventually made a dent in his understanding, however, was when we emphasized that WE could be sick, and that it was important to protect our friends and family. When his focus changed from protecting himself to protecting his people, he dutifully accepted the rules.

That is the nature of sacrifice; you put aside what best serves you in favor of a higher need, or higher cause. Life is full of big and small sacrifices, some as small as the time it takes to let someone step in front of you in line; some as big as your life and safety in defense of a nation, or an ideal.

For Ezra, this was a big one. He was only 4, so what he was asked to lay at the altar of quarantine was nearly all he had.

It was devastating to watch, but I took solace in knowing that this is the kind of sacrifice that Jesus sees particular beauty in.

41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. 43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

Mark 12:41-44

This last year has demanded a lot of sacrifice; offerings which were not evenly expected of us. It was and is financially, emotionally and physically expensive to be human in this season.

It says in 2 Corinthians that “God loves a cheerful giver”, but in the passage above, nothing about the widow’s demeanor is mentioned. Only Jesus’s interpretation of her offering and what it said about her soul.

If this year broke your spirit and took all that you had; if your offering was presented through tears and gritted teeth: take heart. Your gift is precious; great is your reward in the eyes of the Father.

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