Shortly before my daughter Valerie, my only child, went off to college as a freshman, a “sudden tide” came over me one morning as I was working in the kitchen. She had been the great joy of my life for seventeen years. When she was about eleven or twelve, friends heard me speak of what seemed to me a near-perfect mother-daughter relationship.
“Oh, but wait till she’s a teenager!” they warned, “then you’ll have some rough times.” I was still waiting. I could not conceive of life without her.
“She has grown up,” I told myself. “My job is finished, the job I loved more than anything else I have ever done. The nest is about to empty.”
Overcome with sadness, I sat down at the wicker table, picked up the phone, and dialed Van, who is the sort of friend you don’t have to explain things to. Tears came as soon as I tried to talk.
“It’s O.K., Bet,” she said quietly. “It’ll be O.K”
She did not need to explain to me what she meant. She knew I understood. We believe the same things—things like Julian of Norwich’s “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” But I needed to hear her say it. I needed to have the Word made flesh for me in her voice. Van’s simple word, “It’ll be O.K.,” encouraged me to trust and obey. I learned that in this renunciation I had what the seed has that falls into the ground—a new potential for life-giving. I would be lonely, but I now had something precious to offer in love to my Lord, which in turn would make something quite different out of my loneliness. In some mysterious way which I could not predict, that offering would bring forth fruit. It would make a difference to the wholeness of the Body of which I was but a single member.
The way we respond to the “givens” in our daily experience determines our growth in holiness. When we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” God answers that prayer, measuring out just what we need for spiritual as well as physical growth.
We share this Devotional in celebration of Valerie’s birthday, February 27th. May each mother/daughter relationship be as sweet, and may our hearts be as tender towards the Lord as Elisabeth’s. Excerpt originally published in the May/June 2001 Elisabeth Elliot Newsletter.