Elisabeth Elliot 1926 – 2015
One does not surrender a life in an instant. That which is lifelong can only be surrendered in a lifetime.
When someone dies and we feel sad it often helps to do something. If it isn’t a close friend or family, but some one we know from public life, we can re-read one of their books, watch a re-run of a movie they made, read the obituaries or pick up a biography of their lives to remind us of all the things that made that person special to us and the rest of the world.
Yesterday when I heard that Elisabeth Elliot had died I did something. I re-posted a piece I wrote for my blog two years ago. It was a review of a book that Elisabeth Elliot wrote in 1957 called, Through Gates of Splendour. It is a classic of the missionary biography genre, made all the more special because it was written shortly after the young Elisabeth Elliot, who had only been married for only three years, lost her husband. He, along with missionary colleagues, died on his first big venture into the Ecuadorian jungle where he had set all of his heart on working alongside the Quichua Indians.
But the piece I wrote was headed with a quote from Jim Elliot and not Elisabeth, and it has been on my mind all day that my re-posting suggests that Elisabeth was nothing more than her husband’s wife when in fact she was so much more.
Elisabeth Elliot went on to use her considerable gifts as a writer to encourage and guide her readers in the work of walking faithfully with Christ. Always totally honest about her own weakness and failings, she matched this passion with an equally uncompromising devotion to God that was infectious and inspiring.
The mission which she and her husband began came under significant anthropological criticism in the years that followed and certainly raise important questions about our attitudes to evangelising in cultures very different from our own. Many of her views on dating, marriage and being female have fallen out of fashion, but as I read the obituaries and other journalistic pieces that were filling the internet I was persuade once again that she has something important to say to our hungry hearts. In her writing I continue to recognise a desire to grapple with the same difficult questions that occupy me now as I seek to make my faith more thorough and honest. She writes from a deep trust in Jesus and in scripture that was forged in a life of surprising turns, trials and triumphs, and for that, I trust her and wanted to share some of the things that she said.
On the renewing of the mind
Spiritual strongholds begin with a thought. One thought becomes a consideration. A consideration develops into an attitude, which leads then to action. Action repeated becomes a habit, and a habit establishes a “power base for the enemy,” that is, a stronghold.
On letting the word of God do its work
The Word of God I think of as a straight edge, which shows up our own crookedness. We can’t really tell how crooked our thinking is until we line it up with the straight edge of Scripture.
On being female
The fact that I am a woman does not make me a different kind of Christian, but the fact that I am a Christian makes me a different kind of woman.
On living with questions and uncertainty
Waiting on God requires the willingness to bear uncertainty, to carry within oneself the unanswered question, lifting the heart to God about it whenever it intrudes upon one’s thoughts.”
On hard things
To be a follower of the Crucified means, sooner or later, a personal encounter with the cross. And the cross always entails loss.