There is a moment in Harlan Coben’s 2010 novel Caught where a character revisits the second Gulf War. He recalls a conversation he had with a close friend of his that was for the war and asked his friend if only his child would die in the war would it still be something he’d want. As the character tells the story the response he receives is silence.
I was thinking about this passage the other day while I was looking into the face of my own child. We are living in a time where we are possibly on the eve of a third war in the Middle East in my lifetime. My children are not old enough to fight in any war, they aren’t even old enough to know they have feet, but the thought of sacrifice kept ringing through my mind. It was then that I had the oddly disturbing thought of admiration for the strength of Abraham.
If the story of Abraham and Isaac is unknown to you it is a narrative found in the Old Testament of the Christian Bible. It is a story of faith. Of God demanding that one of his followers lead his only son to the top of a mountain and sacrifice him to God. God makes no offer of any reward for the sacrifice. It is simply a test of Abraham’s faith.
As I looked at my own son and thought about the passage from the Harlan Coben novel and the story of Abraham and Isaac I realized I could not make that sacrifice. I could not bind my child, place him on an alter, raise the knife with all intention to strike. I could do known of it. In that moment I admired Abraham’s strength, because it must be strength to be willing to sever a bound so strong.
The big kicker to all this is I finally understand Abraham. Once you have a child your entire world becomes different. You truly no longer see the world as a child. Your life ceases to be your own. It is a life no dedicated to the safety and happiness of another being. A being bound to you by an unbreakable bond of love. And there Abraham was, on the top of that mountain with his son bound before him, willing to sever that bond and give his child to God for nothing other than to prove his faith. It is an action we may not agree with, a decision we could not make, but it is a strength, a resolve to be admired.