I had a favorite author and speaker when I was busy raising and homeschooling the five beautiful human beings God entrusted to my husband and I. Elisabeth Elliott. I’m sure you’ve heard of her. She was the wife of missionary, Jim Elliott, who ministered to, and was later killed by the Huaorani people of Ecuador, leaving Elisabeth a widow and their young daughter fatherless. Elisabeth continued living amongst and ministering to the tribe of people who killed her husband and four other missionaries, for 2 more years before returning to the states. I had the utmost admiration and respect for this precious servant of God, and listened to her radio broadcast, Gateway to Joy, as often as I could manage while raising five busy young children. I also had a devotional written by her called Keep a Quiet Heart, that I read religiously in those early years of parenting and homeschooling, as that was my goal – to keep a quiet heart in the midst of all the noise and commotion caused by a very chatty (though very helpful) girl and three busy, busy boys, followed by a very quiet and laid-back girl who had the courage of her three older brothers. Keeping a quiet heart was a job in itself; one I rarely succeeded at.
My oldest girlfriend shared my love and admiration for Elisabeth Elliott and we had many conversations around the bits of wisdom and instruction we gleaned from her radio show or devotional. On one of her broadcasts, we learned Mrs. Elliott was coming to our area to speak at a local church and my girlfriend and I decided we had to attend. It seemed like an opportunity of a lifetime, as Mrs. Elliott was nearing 70 years of age at the time. So we attended. After she spoke, she had a question and answer time, and I will never forget the first question and her answer to it. Mrs. Elliott was a bit of a formidable character, with her air of authority, her sharp, though godly, tongue, and her seeming lack of tolerance for ignorance. This was readily displayed in reaction to this young woman’s question – the first one out of the gate.
“What did it feel like to lose your husband at such a young age?”
There was a collective gasp, followed by a hushed silence as the audience awaited Mrs. Elliott’s response.
Standing at the lectern, her hands resting on either side of it, she straightened her spine while gazing toward the young woman who asked the first question, and replied, “What do you think it felt like?”.
After a few seconds of uncomfortable silence, she continued, “That’s what it felt like.”
I was stunned. First of all, despite her “no-nonsense” appearance, I did not expect such forthrightness from this elderly Christian woman! And secondly, I didn’t know if being so forthright was an acceptable “Christian” way to talk. But in spite of my misguided views of how a Christian woman should speak, my respect for this woman sky-rocketed. And I learned that evening that loss like she had experienced produces, amongst other things, a lack of tolerance for ignorance and insensitivity. Or, in other words, brutal honesty. She wasn’t disrespectful or hurtful or even snippy. But she was brutally honest with the ridiculously thoughtless question this young woman asked of her.
What a woman she was. I learned so much from her in my young married and parenting days. Having experienced a recent tragic loss myself, I have even more respect and admiration for her now than ever before. She was a remarkable woman. A woman who could maintain her integrity while being brutally honest and direct.
I have struggled immensely with my loss and resulting sorrow in the past week or so. If I didn’t have friends and acquaintances who have lost one or more of their children and so honestly share their own struggles with me and others, I would think I was losing my mind. But, God has so graciously put these beautiful people in my life, encouraging me to keep on keeping on. That is my goal today – to keep on keeping on. I don’t know what else to do. I can’t fix this brokenness that has visited my family and my heart.
In my research for this post I came across a quote Mrs. Elliott frequently said that I don’t remember hearing, but I believe it is my answer (again). I don’t know why such deep sorrow shrouds our minds and makes us less able to think clearly and remember things, but it does. My counselor tells me things many times before I can “hold onto” them and apply them in my daily life.
Mrs. Elliott said, “anything, if offered to God, can and will become your gateway to joy.”
Can my brokenness, my anger, my sorrow, my tears, my confusion, my questions and doubts, my desire to hide from everything and everyone be offered to God?
I’ve always said that God is big enough to carry our……”anythings”. Today I will choose to believe that. Today I will choose to act on that.
My favorite thing Elisabeth Elliott said will help me today.
“You are loved with an everlasting love and underneath are the everlasting arms.”