The first Elisabeth Elliot book I read was Passion and Purity. I was in college, no doubt brokenhearted over some boy, and I grabbed my roommate’s copy not knowing who Elisabeth was nor anything of her story. I think perhaps I was hoping to find the secret to finding love, true love, and the kind of happily ever after that had thus far eluded me in my twenty years of life.
I read the book in one sitting. Yes, Elisabeth spoke, and quite directly I might add, of relationships but it was her passion for Christ that captivated me. She and Jim so young, so in love, their story so tragic, their abandon to the cause of Christ so complete–I saw in their testimony the beauty of a surrendered life and I wanted it.
I’ve since read several of Elisabeth’s books. As a matter of fact, I’m fairly certain I’ve bought–and lent out–Through Gates of Splendor twice. The pictures and images of that particular book stay with me: those young men full of zeal for the Lord and love for all the peoples of the world, the widows and their babies waiting for news, any news, Elisabeth returning to that same people group who had murdered her husband. Here’s Elisabeth describing how they viewed the possibility of danger:
God gave us peace of heart, and confidence that whatever might happen, His Word would hold…God’s leading was unmistakable up to this point. Each of us knew when we married our husbands that there would never be any question about who came first–God and His work held first place in each life. It was the condition of true discipleship; it became devastatingly meaningful now.
It was a time for soul-searching, a time for counting the possible cost. Was it the thrill of adventure that drew our husbands on? No…their compulsion was from a different source. Each had made a personal transaction with God, recognizing that he belonged to God, first of all by creation, and secondly by redemption through the death of His Son, Jesus Christ. This double claim on his life settled once and for all the question of allegiance. It was not a matter of striving to follow the example of a great Teacher. To conform to the perfect life of Jesus was impossible for a human being. To these men, Jesus Christ was God, and had actually taken upon Himself human form, in order that He might die, and, by His death, provide not only escape from the punishment which their sin merited, but also a new kind of life, eternal both in length and in quality. This meant simply that Christ was to be obeyed, and more than that, that He would provide the power to obey. The point of decision had been reached. God’s command “Go ye, and preach the gospel to every creature” was the categorical imperative. The question of personal safety was wholly irrelevant.
I pulled Passion and Purity from my friend’s shelf because I desperately desired true love and the happily ever after of a fairy tale story. Yes, Elisabeth taught me the love of a godly man was worth waiting for, and she was right. She also taught me that true love, sustaining love, the love that will never fail, is found only in Christ. Happily ever after is no fairy tale and its reality is costly. In fact, it will cost my life. “Take up your cross and die” is Jesus’ call to any true disciple. For Jim Elliot it meant martyrdom. For Elisabeth it meant a long obedience in the same direction until, finally, yesterday, the gates of splendor and the glory of her Savior’s presence.
I am indebted to Elisabeth Elliot and her unwavering testimony of the power and sufficiency of the gospel. I am thankful for her life and that she has now received her reward.
Well done, good and faithful servant. Thank you.