I’ve been slowly working my way through old journals and blogs as I put together a timeline of my life (no small task :-P). In that process, I came across this excerpt from The Savage My Kinsman by Elizabeth Elliot. She wrote this final chapter years after her initial two years with the Auca’s, after she had ample time to see and reflect on the fruit of her time with them — the good and the bad. Her perspective is so good and so timely for me right now, so I want to share it again:
“How we long to point to something – anything – and say, ‘This works! This is sure!” But if it is something other than God Himself we are destined for disappointment. There is only one ultimate guarantee. It is the love of Christ. The love of Christ. Nothing in heaven or earth or hell can separate us from that, and because God is God and loves us He will not allow us to rest anywhere but in that Love. We run straight to Him when other refuges fail. Our misconceptions are corrected in Him, our failures redeemed, our sins cleansed, our griefs turned to joy. But first ‘The life also of Jesus must be manifest in our mortal bodies.’ First the drama must be played out – through suffering, weakness, failure, death, and resurrection” (p. 146).
“God keep us from sitting in the seat of the scornful, concentrating solely on the mistakes the paltriness of our efforts, the width of the gap between what we hoped for and what we got. How shall we call this ‘Christian’ work? What are we to make of it?
We must not proceed from our own notions of God’s action (it will appear He has not acted) but must look clearly and unflinchingly at what happens and seek to understand it through the revelation of God in Christ. His life on earth had a most inauspicious beginning. There was the scandal of the virgin birth, the humiliation of the stable, the announcement not to village officials but to uncouth shepherds. A baby was born – a Savior and King – but hundreds of babies were murdered because of Him. His public ministry, surely no tour of triumph, no thundering success story, led not to stardom but to crucifixion. Multitudes followed Him, but most of them wanted what they could get out of Him and in the end all His disciples fled. Yet out of this seeming weakness and failure, out of His very humbling to death, what exaltation and what glory. For the will of God is not a quantitative thing, static and measurable. The Sovereign God moves in mysterious relation to the freedom of man’s will. We can demand no instant reversals. Things must be worked out according to a divine design and timetable. Sometimes the light rises excruciatingly slowly. The Kingdom of God is like leaven and seed, things which work silently, secretly, slowly, but there is in them and incalculable transforming power. Even in the plain soil, even in the dull dough, lies the possibility of transformation for, as the psalmist wrote, ‘All things serve Thee.’
The missionary, with all his sin and worldliness, stands nevertheless with Christ for the salvation of the world. As I learned when I was with the ‘savages,’ they do not need Christ more than I do, for we are all of us sheep who have turned every one to his own way. If I know who the Shepherd is and how to find Him, it is surely my duty to do what I can to point other sheep to Him. The effort to do this must not be seen in ‘either/or’ terms – either it is flawless and therefore a success or it is flawed, and therefore a miserable failure.
Every time my hopes are dashed I am asked to exchange my small view of ‘good’ (when things work my way) for God’s view of it expressed in Romans 8: ‘God who searches our inmost being knows what the Spirit means, because he pleads for God’s people in God’s own way; and in everything, as we know, he cooperates for good with those how love God and are called according to his purpose…..that they should be shaped to the likeness of his Son.’ That, in the last analysis, is for us the only good – that shaping, no matter what it takes” (p. 147-148).