For many years, Elisabeth Elliot had been preparing herself for the work of translating the Bible into a yet-to-be-written language. But much of her book was a confession about how distracted she was from the work she set out to do. Should she boil her milk and butter, how was she to keep her stove lighted, why it was such a trial to transport and boil the water from the river infested with human excrement, and how she made peace with wrinkled clothes.
There were points in the story when I had to put down the book, walk to my kitchen, and appreciate what she called "miracles of ingenuity"—the faucets and drains and my kitchen sink.
"The familiar became the stuff of dreams," she wrote, "and the stuff of former dream—the jungle, Indians, thatched roofs, campfires, a strange unwritten tongue—became the familiar." Going to a grocery store became to her "almost a dream of paradise." Scotch tape, nail files, pots, vegetable parers, and notebooks became precious things, but they were always getting broken or rusty or mildewed.
Life was very stale, she wrote, and the days dragged by. But, when life was eventful, there was sure to be landslides, thefts, getting lost in the jungle, sickness, and deaths. I do not know which I would prefer.
And then, there were her losses. She quoted Amy Carmichael,
But these strange ashes, Lord, this nothingness,I stumbled across these words that did much good for my soul, though I do not yet understand them fully.
This baffling sense of loss?
Son, was the anguish of my stripping less
Upon the torturing cross?
This grief, this sorrow, this total loss that empties my hands and breaks my heart, I may, if I will, accept, and by accepting it, I find in my hands something to offer. And so I give it back to Him, who in mysterious exchange give Himself to me.Hers are among the strangest books I have read, and loved. There was no conclusion, no triumphant ending. I was left wondering why she suffered so, after she had poured out so much. And the losses she recorded in this book were not even the worst of her pain. After five years of waiting for the man she loved, Jim Elliot would die in another jungle just two years after they were married.
Loss after loss after loss.
Faith, prayer, and obedience are our requirements. We are not offered in exchange immunity and exemption from the world's woes. What we are offered has to do with another world altogether.
|My miracles of ingenuity.|
She ended her book this way:
A story is told of Jesus and His disciples walking one day along a stony road. Jesus asked each of them to choose a stone to carry for Him. John, it is said, chose a large one while Peter chose the smallest. Jesus led them then to the top of the mountain and commanded that the stones be made bread. Each disciple, by this time tired and hungry, was allowed to eat the bread he held in his band, but of course Peter's was not sufficient to satisfy his hunger. John gave him some of his.
Some time later Jesus again asked the disciples to pick up a stone to carry. This time Peter chose the largest of all. Taking them to a river, Jesus told them to cast the stones into the water. They did so, but looked at one another in bewilderment.
"For whom," asked Jesus, "did you carry the stone?"