Thursday, March 28, 2013

At any cost

I was cleaning the kitchen yesterday, which meant I was listening to a talk online. I've found that listening to sermons and speeches is my favorite way to get cleaning done. I almost look forward to a chance to mop the kitchen floor now (so much so, in fact, that the new floor has been mopped a total of errrrr .... one time .... since my husband installed it).

Anyway, the speaker was Elisabeth Elliot. I enjoyed her talk about Sulking (although I'm glad my husband wasn't around to give pointed looks) and continued to listen to a different talk.

In this talk, she referenced Betty Stam. I first heard about Betty Stam from my grandmother. I can't remember the connection, but I think it was that my grandfather knew either Betty or her husband, John.

When Betty was ten, she wrote the following poem:

"I cannot live like Jesus,
Example though He be,
For He was strong and selfless,
And I am tied to me.
I cannot live like Jesus;
My soul is never free.
My will is strong and stubborn;
My love is weak and wee.
But I have asked my Jesus to live His life in me.

"I cannot look like Jesus.
More beautiful is He
In soul and eye and stature
Than sunrise on the sea.
Behold His warm, His tangible, His dear humanity.
Behold His white perfection of purest deity.
Yet Jesus Christ has promised that we like Him shall be."

Ten years old!!

And then, when she was eighteen, she wrote the following prayer:

"Lord, I give up all my own plans and purposes, all my own desires and hopes, and accept Thy will for my life. I give myself, my life, my all utterly to Thee to be Thine forever. Fill me and seal me with Thy Holy Spirit. Use me as Thou wilt. Send me where Thou wilt. Work out Thy whole will in my life at any cost, now and forever."

John and Betty Stam were young missionaries to China in the 1930's. They were beheaded. John was 27; Betty was 28.

Their newborn daughter, Helen, was rescued by a Chinese pastor and later raised by relatives.

And here I am, pushing the broom haphazardly, thinking how this is my son's job and not mine. I'm roughly shoving the washcloth across the table (daughter's job) and figuring my husband wasn't here to hear the talk about sulking, so there is no one to mock me about acting the martyr.

Only that's just it. I'm only acting the martyr. "At any cost"?

What cost is being exacted on me? The cost of a few minutes straightening the kitchen, listening to an enjoyable teacher, while my perfectly capable children are working hard (and, admittedly, weepingly) at their schoolwork? The cost of having a chance (which I squandered) of cheerfully demonstrating love (I John 3:16: "By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers")?

At any cost?

The cost of seeing my husband die? The cost of having my baby taken away from me? The cost of seeing a stranger die for the life of my daughter? The cost of not knowing my child's future? The cost of my own life?

What about the cost of not being thanked? The cost of watching children gag on the mushrooms (again)? The cost of being so exhausted I cannot stay awake for the 41,839th rerun of "Seinfeld"? The cost of not ever being able to read more than 1/2 a page of my book without being interrupted? The cost of washing clothes I know were only thrown into the hamper because their owner was too lazy to fold them neatly in the drawer? The cost of stickers stuck to the floor? The cost of eleventeen temporary "tic-tac-toos" plastered to the arms and bellies of most of my children? The cost of hearing the twenty-fifth retelling of a superhero dream that I can't and don't want to follow?

The cost of smiling even when my proud self wants to argue that the smile is hypocritical? The cost of having my feet stepped on by baby feet every day for eleven+ years? The cost of not sighing when the child with the wet PJ's insists on climbing into MY side of the bed? The cost of letting my husband enjoy his sleep in the early morning, even when mine has been ended by [insert name of any child living here]?

I won't pretend it's easy. This life, even apart from actual terrorists and murderers, is not easy. But it's not the dishes and the laundry and the schoolbooks that complicate things.

It's my own heart.

It's that "I am tied to me."

It's that I don't take hold of the fullness that is life in Christ. I choose the filth and the self-pity and the wretchedness. Sure, I have been lavished upon with every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus and have been adopted through Jesus Christ and have redemption through his blood (Eph. 1).

But I forget that. I choose to forget that. At least every day, I choose to forget the good and cling to the bad. Just call me an Israelite, and take me back to the luscious land of slavery.

Like David, I must say,

"Why are you cast down, O my soul,
   and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
   my salvation and my God" (Ps. 43:5).

And with John Stam:

"Afraid? Of what?
To feel the spirit's glad release?
To pass from pain to perfect peace,
The strife and strain of life to cease?
Afraid -- of that?

"Afraid? Of what?
Afraid to see the Savior's face,
To hear His welcome, and to trace
The glory gleam from wounds of grace?
Afraid -- of that?

"Afraid? Of what?
A flash -- a crash -- a pierced heart;
Darkness -- Light -- O Heaven's art?
A wound of His a counterpart!
Afraid? Of that?

"Afraid? Of what?
To do by death what life could not -- 
Baptize with blood a stony plot,
Till souls shall blossom from the spot?
Afraid? -- of that?"

Only it's not the death I seem to be afraid of ... it's real LIFE.

And that's what I'm pondering this morning.


  1. A wonderful Good Friday reminder for whatever circumstance God allows for us. Wishing you a blessed Easter, sister.

  2. Elisabeth Elliot was so influential in my early years as a young Christian Mom. As a matter of fact, Anna's middle name is Elisabeth. :)
    Remember, everything that happens (including mushroom gagging and wet pjs) is divinely appointed to give you the opportunity to know GOD deeper and better. As a matter of fact, it is usually in the little day to day things of life that give you the most favorable opportunities.


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