Chatting With Elisabeth Elliot Over Fish And Chips

Originally posted on Sally Clarkson's blog, I Take Joy

A few years ago, my husband and I found ourselves walking into the living room of Elisabeth Elliot and her husband, Lars.

I glanced around and saw relics and photos I'd read about in books. There sat a framed picture of Jim Elliot. And on the wall hung a large print of young Valerie with the natives of Ecuador.

We rocked in chairs facing a large window overlooking the Atlantic.  Sharing space with a life-long hero was incredibly humbling. And nerve racking. I felt it probably best not to say much as there was no point in ruining a good thing.

Her story has captivated me since childhood. Her books and lessons have been companions and references. Though she's of course as imperfect as the rest of us, the Lord has used her obedience and faith to teach and encourage me in mighty ways.

It was later that afternoon, over fish and chips at their favorite local spot, when we asked if they had any marriage advice for us newbies.

Lars said, "Well, Elisabeth always says two things will make a healthy marriage. Put the other's needs before you own, and, well... I don't remember the other one!"

We all laughed. He went on to talk candidly about some of their differences, their first argument after the wedding, and concluded by saying, "And I guess I've messed up a few other things since then, right Dear?" She rolled her eyes and with a big smile confirmed, "Loads!"

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To put another's needs before our own; Love's simplest description. And truest.That is the test of love.

Love would require no work if it was instant, seamless, and easy. But a life of ease isn't what necessitates reliance on the Lord.

Remember the verse that says Jesus came to earth to swagger down easy street and received the royal treatment? Yeah me neither.

But I do recall that time he came to serve, and not be served. He came to wash dirty feet. He allowed himself to be interrupted walking through the city. To heal bodies, and souls. And most importantly, to listen to His Father and respond obediently.

And then there was the part where he died. For you and me. For the needs of others. So that we could stand blameless before a Holy God, he took our punishment upon himself.

Love has never been so selfless.

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Measure thy life by loss and not by gain;

 not by the wine drunk, but by the wine poured forth. 

For love's strength standeth in love's sacrifice, 

and he that suffereth most hath most to give.

Since I first heard the above words by Huqo Bassi in one of Elisabeth Elliot's talks, they've stuck.

For love's strength standeth in love's sacrifice.

The key to growing love and strengthening it lies in the sacrifice.

Jesus was in continual communion with his Father, relying on him for his next move or next miracle.

So it makes sense that in order for me to love my husband, my children, a difficult neighbor,  the displaced refugees 30 minutes away, or the children stuck in my city's foster care system, the selflessness must start on my knees.

Prayer is where true love-filled sacrifice begins. 

Putting another's needs before my own must originate in prayer because a sacrificial life doesn't flow from human resolve or a strong will, but Spirit-empowered love. Prayer is what can turn sacrifice from an exhausting burden into a joyful gift. It compels us to put another's need before our own.

It's not any more natural for a "hero" like Elisabeth Elliot (or whoever your own role model may be) to live sacrificially in their relationships than it is for the rest of us. We all are invited to the same place -- the throne of God where we can lay down our burdens and requests. In His gracious love for us he has asked us to love Him, and then to love our neighbor.

And he does not ask us to do it alone.