Last October I received a copy of the Auca (now known as Waorani) translation of the New Testament. The orthography has been greatly altered since my day, so I can’t read much of it now, but leafing through the pages I thought long, long thoughts. I had had nothing to do with the translation. I was with the Aucas only two years, during which Rachel Saint and I worked on reducing the language to writing, but we had barely begun to translate a few Bible stories when my daughter Valerie and I returned to Quichua work.
Sometimes I am asked to speak to young people who are toying with the idea of being missionaries. They want to know how I discovered the will of God. The first thing was to settle once and for all the supremacy of Christ in my life, I tell them. I put myself utterly and forever at His disposal, which means turning over all the rights: to myself, my body, my self-image, my notions of how I am to serve my Master. Oswald Chambers calls it “breaking the husk of my individual independence of God.” Until that break comes, all the rest is “pious fraud.” I tell these earnest kids that the will of God is always different from what they expect, always bigger, and, ultimately, infinitely more glorious than their wildest imaginings.
But there will be deaths to die. Paul found that out daily, he said. That is the price of following the way of the cross–of course. If our object is to save others we must be clear that we cannot save ourselves. Jesus couldn’t either.
This scares people. Yet what is there to fear when Christ holds first place in our lives? Where, other than in the will of the Father, shall we expect to find significance, security, and serenity?
God’s guidance for me has been so different from my early notions – I was to be a jungle missionary for life! The complete futility, humanly speaking, of all the language work I did (Colorado, Quichua, and Auca for various reasons, all came to nothing) was a deep lesson in the supremacy of Christ. Whom had I set out to serve? May He not do as He wills, then, with His servant and with that servant’s work? Is anything offered to Christ ever wasted? I thought about the sacrifices of Old Testament times. When a man brought a lamb, the priest laid it on the altar, slit its throat, and burned it. The offering, then, was accepted. But what was left of it? Amy Carmichael taught me the implications of a living sacrifice. She wrote:
“But these strange ashes, Lord, this nothingness,
This baffling sense of loss?”
Son, was the anguish of My stripping less
Upon the torturing cross?
Was I not brought into the dust of death,
A worm, and no man, I;
Yea, turned to ashes by the vehement breath
Of fire, on Calvary?
0 son beloved, this is thy heart’s desire:
This, and no other thing
Follows the fall of the Consuming Fire
On the burnt offering.
Go on and taste the joy set high, afar,–
No joy like that to thee;
See how it lights the way like some great star.
Come now, and follow Me.
I want to put it down right here that I have certainly “tasted the joy.” I cannot imagine a more wonderfully blessed life than mine. Faithfulness of a loving Father–that’s what I’ve found, every day of every week of every year, and it gets better. How I do hope those prospective missionaries will believe me!
Excerpt originally published in the March/April 1993 Elisabeth Elliot Newsletter.