Wednesday, June 17, 2015

That nothing be lost

Our friend Eshan is living with us this summer. She cares for the boys in the mornings while I study for my Hebrew comprehensive exams.

We were talking one evening while I was picking up the boys' crumbs. We had rice for dinner, so the mess was quite a sight. Suddenly, Eshan froze. I realized then that I had popped a piece of teriyaki chicken into my mouth. "The chicken was fine," I explained. "It was clean. Not as juicy. But I rather not waste it."

She laughed. And I continued with my crumb picking. Later that night, we heard that Elisabeth Elliot died.

Elisabeth Elliot (1926-2015)

Emeth saw that I was sad. "Was Elisabeth Elliot your friend, mommy?"

"Kind of," I answered.

"Did you know her?" he asked.

"A little," I said.

"You knew her?" he gasped. "Did she know you?"

"No, she didn't know me," I replied. Thank you for making me smile, my inquisitive child.

Elisabeth Elliot didn't know me, though I had many cups of coffee with her. I met her in the beginning of January. At her table, I feasted on her stories and counsel. She gave me answers, and asked me new questions. I read and re-read her books as though they were long and wonderful letters to me. She feared no one and nothing, except for her Lord. She was my "older person," as Paul was to Timothy. And she died.

Jesus instructed his disciples to gather the crumbs after he fed five thousand men with five loaves of bread and two fish; I imagine there were also women and children. What a curious instruction. What did they do with the crumbs? "That nothing may be lost"—was the reason he gave to his disciples.

So, I continue with my crumb picking, gathering the bits and pieces that my teacher created. She left many baskets full. They are not as juicy as at first, but they are quite fine. Much tastier than dry teriyaki chicken.

Here are four of my favorite morsels from Twelve Baskets of Crumbs (1976).

She taught me to be a free woman:
"Missionary," of course, is a term which does not occur in the Bible. I like the word witness, and it is a good, biblical word meaning someone who has seen something. The virgin Mary saw an angel and heard his word and committed herself irretrievably when she said, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord." This decision meant sacrifice—the giving up of her reputation and, for all she knew then, of her marriage and her own cherished plans. "Be it unto me according to thy word." She knew the word was from God, and she put her life on the line because of it. The thing God was asking her to do, let us not forget, was a thing that only a woman could do.

The early history of the church mentions other women who witnessed—by ministering to Christ during his earthly work, cooking for him, probably, making a bed, providing clothes and washing them—women who were willing and glad to do whatever he needed to have done. (And some of you who despise that sort of work—would you do it if it was for him?) (163)

She taught me to love and mind the gaps:
The admired was, in all cases, something the admirer was not. There was a gap. It was noticeable and was accepted... They also bridged the gap somehow...

Mind the gaps—between men and women (God help us all if the idea of Unisex gets hold of us), between the stage and audience in a theater (I don't want an actor coming up my aisle), between those who know and those who don't know (let teachers teach, please, don't make them forever ask, What do you think?), and between the generations (let the young be young with all their hearts, and let me be old and admit it gracefully).

And let me be—let all of us—be humble enough to be enriched by what someone else is that I am not (51).

Writing was hard, even for her:

Writing, for me, is a painful business... An awful lot of time I spend trying to get things down on paper goes eventually into the wastebasket. And I hate to think how much of what doesn't go there should have.

Housework is not like that. You don't start out with any foolish and high-flown ideas about creativity and all that. You can do it without concentrating, and you can count on the results. The dishes sparkle, the bed is smooth, the meal—even if the cake falls—gets eaten (54-55).

She taught me to hope—in another world (when her second husband died):
It is out of the question for us to collect the crumbs "that nothing be lost." When a man dies it seems that nearly everything is lost, but that is not true. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, have been fed.

And although we have but fragments of a life, although we know even ourselves only in a fragmented way, eternity has been written in our hearts, and the pieces will one day be put together exactly as they were meant to go (69).