An Untold Sacrifice Isaac’s Legacy The Amish, Mennonites and Hutterites all know that their inheritance is deeply anchored in the blood of the Anabaptist martyrs, a central thread that bonds us all together; even while the same remain vastly divided. Within the many divisions, there yet remains a unique call on some individuals today, whose lives of extreme sacrifice are in a class which is foreign to most of us. The story I am about to share is that surrounding someone I personally knew, as well as most of his extended family. For the sake of preserving his mysterious legacy, I will call him “Isaac.” His story has never been told—until now.
My story centers upon Isaac as a young Amish man of about 21 years old, vibrant and full of life. He was at this stage in a committed relationship with a girl I never got to know. Even though he did not live in our community, I knew his family well. Only once did he grace our home with his presence; he was a joy to behold. Isaac was unlike any other young man I ever knew. The notion of disobedience to his parents, or to the church, was not in his vocabulary. His faithfulness seemingly had no boundaries. Isaac was one of the youngest of a large Family—a family that was internally divided. This situation was kept under wraps for many years, few people knew of it. His mother was a quiet, unassuming, and peace-loving woman, believing in a present and personal salvation. His dad on the other hand, though a kind and gentle person, did not share his wife’s beliefs, which created a divided house throughout much of their lives. Isaac’s mother subsequently lived much of her life in fear of her personal faith being exposed and made public to the bishop and the church—a scenario wrought with the potential for creating widespread upheaval and misunderstanding.
From a young age Isaac came to personally know Jesus, and without fanfare he went on in life in an unsuspecting manner, distinct from the rest of the family. Most of the family gravitated toward their father, who was more in harmony with the prevailing spirit in the church.
Their father, who according to Amish standards was a man of some means, who, graciously financed his sons into their own businesses, where each became thrifty in their own ways. At a young age his father also established Isaac in a lucrative business, where he on a weekly basis sent out loads of his products. Often without his father’s knowledge he would hide gospel pamphlets and scripture verses within the load, desperately hoping he could touch some lost soul through such efforts.
As the years went on, the weight of living a life of two opposing worlds, without violating either one, began taking its toll on his heart. This situation would eventually begin pulling down his mental capacities as well. Many nights he stained his pillow with his tears as he tossed through the night, unable to find rest or peace of soul.
As he agonized, and as the throes of seeming death surrounded him, his spiritual senses became alive. He would see open heavens and God’s glory, while at same time becoming frustrated that others around him couldn’t see it.
One evening at about 10 o’clock he stepped outside the house on the porch, when his mom then urged him to put on shoes, for it was cold. But he said that where he was going he would need no shoes. For some time while standing there in the cold dark night, he declared to them that what he was seeing in the spirit-realm was actual glimpses of heaven. Moments after sharing his glimpses of heaven, he suddenly bolted-off the porch and down the long lane in his bare feet—never to be seen alive again.
Never once throughout Isaac’s life did he deny his faith. Further, and after many years of reflecting upon such, I’ve concluded that Isaac died so that his dad could live; so his mom could live; so his bishop could live; and so the Amish church could live. I realize that for many, my conclusion about the purpose of Isaac’s life may seem ethereal, or a theological stretch. Please bear with me however, as I briefly expand further upon the impact of his short life.
The early martyrs sacrificed their lives for their faith, laying the groundwork for the raising-up and growing of the faith within those who remained. In like manner, Isaac sacrificed his life, so others could live. He had everything; a lucrative business, a committed girlfriend, a loving mother, and a family that cared for him; yet he saw the greater reward—knowing that such a choice would open a door for others to find Jesus.
Within a year of his demise, his bishop also came onto his death bed, his life being fraught with many deep internal struggles after dealing with Isaac’s traumatic saga, along with similar problems looming before him personally. He was a man of vast influence throughout the Amish churches of America. He had been called upon to help settle internal church disputes in many communities—being looked upon as a man of stature by many within the Amish world. In time, and very abruptly, he was brought face to face with the uncertainty of life. It seemed as if his earthly life was closing-in on him, and he became more isolated as all these dynamics began pressing-in on him. However, as the end of his life was looming before him, he seemed to become reconciled with the past and with those of opposing spiritual views. In the end, He departed this world with a smile on his face.
Perhaps there were those who consigned this man to the portion of unbelievers. But I choose to believe that God’s grace was sufficient through the shed blood, to save him. The untold sacrifice of Isaac, to forego all the benefits life offered him, carried with it a vast shield of redemptive power and life to those he touched (Ezekiel 22:30, John 20:21-23). It is a Divine decree, that life must emerge where death has occurred; that is the inheritance of the saints (John 10:17.) The proof of this is found at the CROSS! Fast-Forward 20 Years:
One evening I heard a soft knock on the door. At the time I was several hundred miles away from home, on a mission, and at the moment Isaac was the last person on my mind. Somehow, the person whom I did not know that came to see me had found out that I was in the area, and that I was acquainted with Isaac’s father. His mission was that to discuss the spiritual condition of Isaac’s father, whom he knew well, and had often conversed with him on spiritual matters—matters that had disturbed him concerning his faith. I shared with my visitor a few thoughts I had, but left the matter largely untouched. Shockingly, the next evening he called again, this time to say that Isaac’s father had just been killed that very day. This abrupt message momentarily spun me into a deep void, and again brought back to the reality of Isaac’s life and what it all meant. As my thoughts began to clear I vaguely began to understand some of the mysteries surrounding Isaac’s mission in life. It seems that like Isaac, his father’s life was also taken in an untimely manner, to rejoin his son.
I personally believe that when his father left his body, Isaac was at the heavenly portals, waiting for him with open arms. And, together, they were embraced by the arms of Jesus.
As I reflect upon the lives of Isaac and his father, as well as the lives of many others among the Amish\Mennonite nations, who have lived a life of sacrifice, in the end becoming victorious and thereby obtaining the promise of a better land for themselves and all whom their life touches.. Many generations have gone before us, offering their lives as living sacrifices—all the while knowing that they were creating precedent, in the form of a spiritual baton that could be passed—not unlike the baton that was passed from Elijah to Elisha (II Kings 2:9).
As we offer our lives as living sacrifices, and we do all that we possibly can to extend God’s kingdom, not unlike the mysterious life of Isaac; the soil beneath our feet will also cry-out for fulfillment; a cry which, when answered, will result in the death of worldly pursuits, and the fulfillment of God’s sovereign purposes in each of our lives—and the lives of those we touch along the way…..Ben Girodbengirod@gmail.com http://www.anabaptistconnections.org
Edited by David Davenport..