Wrecked by the life and death of Elisabeth Elliot
My husband came home to me staring at the computer screen. He knew something was up right away.
Elisabeth Elliot died today, I explained.
An hour later he sent me this article written by John Piper. If you are interested in what I have to say, please go read what he had to say about her and then come back, or be sure to read it when you are finished here.
I spent the next 20 minutes bawling on the bathroom floor like I had just lost my best friend. My sweet husband consoled me the best he could, probably thinking I am going mad. After all, it's not like I spouted her as my favorite author/speaker. I didn't even talk about her much, maybe a handful of times in our 9 year marriage.
So why did the death of this woman wreck me?
I'll try to explain it to you as I sort through the feelings myself.
I was in a particularly impressionable time in my life, probably age 14, maybe as old as 16. I was pretty boy crazy and silly. I didn't take much seriously. As most kids raised in suburban America with zero hardships, I didn't have to.
I recall one day sitting on the bus next to my best friend, asking each other random questions to pass the time. "What is your deepest, darkest fear?" she asked. I closed my eyes and thought seriously for a moment about what would completely destroy me.
"My biggest fear," I began, "would be to get everything I ever wanted. I great husband and a lot of kids, a super happy family, and then to lose it all like in a fire or something. And then be left alone."
As the months went by I started getting into a little bit of trouble with my friends and lying and toilet papering houses and sneaking out of sleepovers... it was escalating pretty quickly and the people in my life who cared about me most took notice.
Someone, I don't remember who, gave me a copy of Passion and Purity by Elisabeth Elliot. It was a popular book among the older girls in my youth group at the time. They all were pretty much in love with Elisabeth Elliot, so it was trendy enough in my Christian sub-culture for me to pay attention.
I opened the book and read it cover to cover in one sitting. Then I started over and read it again. This time more slowly, deliberately taking time to let her straightforward words about her dating relationship with her husband Jim sink in.
I had never heard an older Christian woman admit that the "young love" struggle is REAL. She was honest about, well, passion. But she offered no excuse for silliness and distraction from the only thing our passions are worthy of, our Lord Jesus.
Her words in that book ripped straight through my flesh and settled deeply in my heart. And not just for me, the book was catching fire among some other girls I knew and they tutored me in the truths presented there and set me on a straighter course.
The is a flame burning in my heart for world missions. It was lit by my God who saved me and who is the hope of the nations. This flame, burning on a low heat, was ignited by The Elisabeth and Jim Elliot story. Hers was the life that first exposed me to what true missions work is. Or rather what I often forget to this day, what it is not. Glamorous, easy, a vacation, sure of success. The way the Elliots viewed their call to missions was a chance to die.
And he did.
Jim Elliot was speared to death by the unreached people group he worked hard to reach.
If I were Elisabeth, with a 10 month old baby in the middle of the Ecuadorian jungle with savages who just killed my husband, I would leave.
But Elisabeth listened to the call to stay. She belonged wholly to her Savior. This champion of purity, a woman who loved her husband so passionately, who experienced a union so sweet, and entered into the mission field with the man God had joined her together with was now left alone. In the blink of an eye at the edge of a spear.
But here is what is so amazing about Elisabeth. She knew what she knew and she did not waver, even in the most tragic circumstances. What she knew is that those people, the savages, had never heard the name of Jesus. And more than she needed a husband, they needed a savior. She was not being a hero, she did not flaunt her strength and sacrifice. She merely loved the people who God created, the people among whom he would be named. She loved them and they met her savior.
It's probably one of the most remarkable stories a young woman can hear if she will listen. Elisabeth's testimony changed my life.
So why am I wrecked? Why am I having trouble rejoicing with my fellow believers at her homecoming? I am rejoicing for her, but I am mourning for myself, for who I am and for who I want to be.
At the news of her death all at once a sea of emotions flooded in because now that she has been removed, who will take her place. I know that many women now stand on the road that she fearlessly cleared for us. Many women teach truth body to other women. And for that I am thankful. But I just haven't ever come across anyone quite like Elisabeth.
Bold, honest, no excuses, but kind, and humble, and so wise. Who will stand in the gap? I feel at such a disadvantage in our culture. Can a woman rise up from 21st century America of the caliber of Hannah More, Amy Carmichael, or Elisabeth Elliot?
With all of our distractions, is there even one whose first love is Christ and whose first aim is his exultation? Is there any wife who would lay down her fear, her grief, her marriage, for the cross?
Is there any mom who would brave the little years, single, in the jungle among savages for the cause of Christ so that he could have the prize for which he died, the inheritance of the Auca people?
Honestly I feel too much my own weakness and pull to popular culture to be sure that the answer could be yes. But even so, I believe in a God who works in hearts and lives for his glory and our good, and if he wants to raise up another champion he will, or perhaps he will use the collective voices of those touched by the testimonies of these champions to deliver the message together.
Her death today awakened in me the desire that was born half my lifetime ago, to be a woman pure in heart and passionate for the Lord Jesus. I will rise up and fill the gap right here, right now where I am. Prayerfully, I will resemble the strong, humble, woman versed in truth and confident in Christ, will you stand with me?