For Chinese New Year cleaning, I decided to tackle the row of bookshelves full of books--some ancient, some shedding coffee-colored cracked tape and paper, some still in good shape under the gray down time had gently covered them with. Two dusting cloths later, a small book fell out and proclaimed Shadow of the Almighty at me before it landed on my foot, painfully grabbing my attention. I picked it up. Oh. The life and testimony of Jim Elliot by Elisabeth Elliot.
I didn't even know we had this. It looks old. I think this is probably famous--? The title sounds kind of familiar.The picture of Jim Elliot on the cover isn't very nice.
I opened it as these thoughts swept absently through my mind, and immediately was arrested by a phrase on the coffee-ombre page.
We should love hard, and not casually; fervently, playfully, and simply, never heavily or slowly. Slovenly loving makes for wearisome living.
Wow. Here was the powerful combination of a good mind, heart, and pen. I flipped on, just to see if any more gems could be grabbed so easily, though that quote alone put this book on my reading list.
Dreams are tawdry when compared with the leading of God, and not worthy of the aura of wonder we usually surround them with.
Whoa. Now this one hit close to home. I'd been struggling with the idea of not being able to fulfill life-long dreams, how to reconcile such a disappointment with God's loving and perfect providence.
W. Somerset Maugham, in Of Human Bondage, wrote, "These old folk had done nothing, and when they died it would be just as if they had never been." Jim's comment on this was, "God deliver me!"
If I feel like this too--what am I actively doing, besides praying, to be 'delivered' from a fruitless life?
Failure means nothing now, only that it taught me life. Success is meaningless, only that it gave me further experience in using the great gift of God, Life.
And Life, I love thee. Not because thou art long, or because thou has done great things for me, but simply because I have thee from God.
Not because thou has done great things for me. Life's goodness isn't determined by how many dreams we fulfill or happy times we experience even. It is something much simpler, smaller--or maybe in fact so much bigger--than our limited perspective and definition...
And finally. An anecdote of Jim's college days. With his burning desire to build God's kingdom, to lead others to Christ, Jim faithfully joined a group of Christians in a nearby town for their regular meetings in the hopes of being a help to them. Elisabeth Elliot wrote: "His desire does not seem to have been visibly fulfilled, but the exercise of soul that it cost Jim did something at least to preserve him from what, for the average college student, is often a life of unmitigated selfishness."
My immediate response was God deliver me!
Tragically I realized this was too true. Sometimes it even becomes something we justify. As students, as youths, we--and others--accept that our lives should revolve around ourselves. Our studies. Our ambitions. Our needs and desires and pleasures.
It's common to think that because we're so wrapped up in our studies everyday, we 'deserve' to spend all our leftover energy and interest on ourselves. Whether we're working or playing, the focus is always the same--ME.
How many of us are living lives of unmitigated selfishness, unchallenged and unconscious of it? How have I been living a life of unmitigated selfishness, and how should I best actively resist it?
'the exercise of soul...'
Even if there seems to be no results, sometimes God intends us to be blessed by the mere 'exercise of soul' it costs us. This was so encouraging--so often you wonder if what you're doing even means anything, accomplishes anything. It seems like you're putting in all this effort without seeing any of the results you desire, hope for. Am I just slogging my heart out for nothing, Lord? Is it because You don't want me to minister or labor in this channel? Am I doing something wrong? Why isn't anything happening??
Sometimes selflessness isn't obvious, isn't going to immediately bloom into stupendous results and give us the 'fruitful life' we want to feel we have. Sometimes our hopes may never seem to be visibly fulfilled, as Jim's in this specific area of ministry. Sometimes only you are aware of your labor--something other people take for granted, something only you know costs you, is an 'exercise of soul'.
Be encouraged. God knows. Your labor is not in vain.
Thank you, Jim and Elizabeth Elliot.
a small voice
Ci thinks some of God's greatest blessings to mankind are
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