The first book of hers that I read was Passion & Purity.
I honestly am not sure how I happened upon it or where it came from, but my copy is all marked up and the pages don’t stick in anymore.
There are words I read in that book that are still echoing in my mind and heart ten years later.
I was 16 or 17 years old, and a part of a village where it was all about dating or not dating and the eventual godly relationship and marriage was the gold star on a good Christian life.
And with a simple book that I probably picked up during one of my not-as-infrequent-as-I-wish-they-had-been trips to Family Christian Bookstore, Elisabeth Elliot rocked my world.
My bookshelf began to fill up with gaudy 1980’s covers and yellowed pages, books of hers rescued from thrift stores or basement shelves. I devoured them, filled pages in my journal, listened to her cassette tapes in my car, eagerly made my way to an opening showing of End of the Spear and nursed what can only be described as an awkward and now rather disturbing crush on Jim Elliot.
And despite the fact that I had no idea what I was getting myself into, God began to call that teenage girl out of a life focused on getting it right so that Jesus would bless her, and into a life of submitting to Jesus and becoming more like him.
The words she wrote and the way she wrote them captured my attention, awakened my heart. That woman was sure of her Savior, and it bled through her pen into each word and phrase she wrote. The way Elisabeth Eliot wrote about Jesus was new for me—he wasn’t just some rule maker in the sky, waiting to punish us for disobeying or holding a secret plan aloft, tricking us while we stumbled. He was a powerful yet present God, who could both be glorified in a world where innocent men are killed, and comfort, care for, and speak tenderly to a grieving widow.
Elisabeth Elliot was a rare adult who was honest about following Jesus. I never saw in her an attempt to dress up or glamorize faith—how could she? For her following Jesus had been so costly. Her honest admission that following Jesus could be hard, but her fierce determination that it was worth it anyway, he was worth everything anyway– it made me long to know Jesus the way that she did.
This is why I call Elisabeth Elliot one of the Spiritual Midwives in my life. It wasn’t even until today, reflecting on the part her life has played in my story, that I realized how the Lord was using her story and her faithful obedience to ignite what would be a long, rigorous, transformative part of my faith journey. A journey from striving to submission, a journey from grasping to grace.
Thank you, dear sister, for your honest, steadfast devotion to the truth and a life lived in the knowledge that Jesus really is enough. I know Jesus better because of your willingness to do the hard work of thinking about and writing down these moments that so often just pass us by. I smile thinking of what a joy it must be to really be seeing him face to face.