December 06, 2011

Pieces from Passion and Purity

Learning to bring your love life under Christ control...
Here is a love story between Jim and Elisabeth Elliot who met when they were both college students who prepared to become missionaries. Yes, they met and fell in love with one another. First time they met, Elisabeth thought him as being earnest, committed to missionary service, outspoken. She noticed him standing in dining-hall lines with little read poetry, loved to read it aloud. He was the real man, strong, broadchested, unaffected, friendly, and she thought, very handsome. He loved God. That was the supreme dynamic of his life. Nothing else mattered much by comparison. Every encounter strengthened the suspicion that Elisabeth might be falling in love with this man. But precisely how did one pour at God’s feet the “treasure store” of one’s love?

Does God want everything dear to us? God asked Abraham to offer his only son, Isaac. He asked a rich man to sell his posessions and give to the poor. He even said, “By gaining his life a man will lose it; by losing his life for my sake, he will gain it.” Paul counted everything sheer loss if he compare it with the gain of knowing Christ Jesus his Lord. He even thought anything else as garbage. In the end, she found out that until the

will and the affections are brought under the authority of Christ, she would not begin to understand, let alone to accept, His lordship. Her heart would be forever a lonely hunter unless settled “where true joys are to be found.” Yet God asks what are dear to us not for the sake of taking. Jesus asked the child his only food, five loaves of bread and two fishes to feed more than five thousands of people. Yet we knew that when our life is broken when given to Jesus, it is because pieces will feed a multitude, while a loaf will satisfy only one little lad. Do you see the pattern? God will never close the door without opening the window. Yet how did Elisabeth endure the ‘closed door’ season?

She found out that a settled commitment to the Lord Christ and a longed-for commitment to Jim Elliot seemed to be in conflict. Discipleship usually brings us into the necessity of choice between duty and desire. They are not always mutually exclusive, however. When we set our hearts in obedience, we can tell the difference. Again, they were going to be missionaries, meaning they would go apart. One day, Jim clearly stated that he would not look for spouse in his mission field. He had found the one he wanted. “If I marry, I know who it’ll be. That is, of course if she’ll have me. But I’m not asking. I can’t even ask you to wait. I’ve given you and all my feelings for you to God. He’ll have to work out whatever He wants. I am hungry for you. We’re alike in our desire for God. I’m glad for that. But we’re different, too. I’ve got the body of a man, and you’ve got the body of a woman, and frankly, I want you. But you are not mine, God’s.” What would you do when everything seems right but simply not in God’s timing? Are you willing to refrain your passion and running in pursuit of God’s version of purity?

So Elisabeth began to learn to wait.
Truly my hearts waits silently for God; my deliverance comes from him. In truth he is my rock of deliverance, my tower of strength, so that I stand unshaken. Trust always in God, my people, pour out your hearts before him; God is our shelter.
Waiting silently is the hardest thing of all. She was dying to talk to Jim and about Jim. But the things that we feel most deeply we ought to learn to be silent about, at least until we have talked them over throughly with God. She wanted to know once and for all whethere God is going to giver her a husband and how long it was going to go on.” “If only God would let me know” But she persisted that longing and took an attitude of real waiting.

Steadfastness, that is holding on.
Patience, that is holding back.
Expectancy, that is holding the face up.
Obedience, that is holding one’s self in readiness to go or do.
Listening, that is holding quiet and still so as to hear.
“How long, Lord must I wait?”
“Never mind, child. Trust Me.”

Why does God sometimes challenge us to let go what we hold dear eventhough it is good? He says, “Everything that may abide the fire, you shall make it through the fire. The Lord your God proved you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. He tried us, as silver is tried.” Purity comes at a high price. Even our loneliness is a material for sacrifice. The very longings themselves can be offered to Him who understands perfectly. The transformation into something He can use for the good of others takes place only when the offering is put into His hands. What will He do with these offerings? Never mind. He knows what to do.

So there they stood after graduation. A moment to say goodbye.
Let this goodbye of ours, this lastgoodbye, be still and splendid like a forest tree ... Let there be one grand look within our eyes built of the wonderment of the past years, too vast a thing of beauty to be lost. In quivering lips and burning floods of tears.
At least Jim had not seen the quivering lips or the tears. He stood while Elisabeth walked down the platform of the train and then she waved at him in the distance as she boarded.

Does the story seem strange? Is there anything today, even in the imagination of the Christian, for which we are willing to pay the price of self-sacrifice? Any ideal left, any clear-cut goal, any control of passion? Surely there is somewhere but it is hard to find. I hope this story may strengthen us who find that even in recent decades, there are those who recognize something far greater than their own passions, even to the world at large there seems to be nothing else of any consequence.The majority will sacrifice anything –security, honor, obedience to God –to passion. Yet in fact, the greater the potential for good, the greater the potential for evil. That’s what Jim and Elisabeth found in the force of their love. A good and perfect gift, these natural desires. But so much necessary that they be restrained, controlled, corrected, even crucified, that they might be reborn in power and purity for God.

They did not regard honor as merely a concept. Jim honored her as a woman, She honored him as a man. Not every couple will endure this same story, yet for them, this was the way they had to walk, and they walked it. Jim was seeing his duty to protect her, Elisabeth was seeing it was her part to wait quietly, not to attempt to woo or entice.

The constraints of godly love are beautifully expressed by Christina Rossetti: I cannot love you if I love not Him, I cannot love Him, if I love not you.
I wait. Dear Lord, Thy ways are past finding out, Thy love too high. O hold me still beneath Thy shadow. It is enough that Thou lift up the light of Thy countenance.
I wait. Because I am commanded to do so. My mind is filled with wonderings. My soul asks “Why?” But then the quiet word, ‘Waith thou only upon God.”
And so, not even for the light to show a step ahead, but for Thee, dear Lord, I wait.

Elisabeth: God says that,”Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it dies, it bringeth forth much fruit” (John 12:24). So it was with our little kernel of possibility. So small, but buried. And I asked God to water it, there in its daekness, and transform the dead thing into fruit,.. love, joy, peace,long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. To those with ears to hear and eyes to see, there will be very great release from unbearable burdens in the language of autumn tees, for example, when they dress most gloriously in preparation for death. Winter follows, when snow closes everything in frozen silence. But spring comes at last, and the hinder wonders burst out and all at once –tiny shoots, swelling buds, touches of green and red where all seemed hopeless the day before.

If the leaves had not been let go to fall and wither, if the tree had not consented to be a skeleton for many months, there would be no new life rising, no bud, no flower, no fruit, no seed, no generation. Elisabeth saw the sign of spring through this: The Lord has brought about growth in me through knowing him, something I cannot regret, though there have been times when I wised I’d never met him. I have to give him to the Lord regularly. I live “present tense” more than ever before and have managed to overcome the plaguing desire to know it “we” will eventually “work out”. I’ve told the Lord I want to be an obedient servant, and He shot back, “And are you willing to face grief and pain or whatever it takes for Me to make you that?” I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t afraid. But He has brought me this far and already my joy is unspeakable. She brought her obedience to the point that she refused to think that they will eventually work out. She only knew that she obeyed her God. Period.

Then they had been apart for six months, they would have five days together at Easter and Jim was going off again for another eight months. Elisabeth surely endured loneliness during this long period of separation. Yet God showed her what to do in loneliness. She wrote:
Be still and know that He is God. Use the stillness to quiet your heart before God. Get to know Him. If He is God, He is still in charge.
Remember that you are not alone. “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged." (Deut. 31:8). He is there, never for one moment forgetting you.
Give thanks. I have been lifted up by the promise of 2 Cor. 4:17, “ For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” The loneliness itself will be far outweighed by glory.
Refuse self-pity. Refuse it absolutely. It is a deadly thing with power to destroy you. Turn your thoughts to Christ who has already carried your griefs and sorrows.
Accept your loneliness. It is one stage, and only one stage, on a journey that brings you to God. It will not always last.
Offer up your loneliness to God, as the little boy offered to Jesus his five loaves and two fishes. God can transform it for the good of others.
Do something for somebody else. No matter who or where you are, there is something you can do, somebody who needs you. Pray that you may be an instrument of God’s peace, that where there is loneliness you may bring joy.

The important thing is to receive this moment’s experience with both hands. Don’t waste it. “Wherever you are, be all there,” Jim once wrote, “Live to the hilt every situation you believe to be the will of God.” We can be full of joy here and now even in our trials and troubles. “Taken in the right spirit these very things will give us patient endurance; this in turn will develop a mature character, and a character of this sort produces a steady hope, a hope that will never disappoint us.” The effects of our troubles depends not on the nature of the troubles themselves but on how we receive them. We can receive them with both hands in faith and acceptance, or I can rebel and reject. What we produce if we rebel and reject will be something very different from a mature character, something nobnody is going to like.

Rebellion –if this is the will of God for me now, He doesn’t love me.
Rejection –if this is what God is giving me, I won’t have any part of it.
Faith –God knows exactly what He’s doing.
Acceptance –He loves me; He plans good things for me; I’ll take it.

You can have full of joy here an now when you take everything in the right spirit. Taken in a spirit of trust, even loneliness contributes to the maturing of character, even the endurance of separation and silence and that hardest thing of all, uncertainty, can build in us a steady hope.
How would Jim and Elisabeth Elliot turn out to be? Find out later in part 2 “Pieces from Passion and Purity” ;)
To be continued ..

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