Dear Elisabeth Elliot,
I first heard your name when a friend of mine, new in Christ, went to the Urbana Missions Conference in Illinois in 1981. I was not a Christian and was still hostile to the whole idea of faith in Christ. My friend Sara told me of hearing you speak about the different roles that men and women have according to how God has made them. She said you maintained that men need to take the initiative with women in relationships – women should not be asking men out or chasing them. When Sara said this, I was affronted. I was offended. My feminist soul cried out against this blatant sexism. But way down deep inside, so deep that I didn’t want to acknowledge it, my heart was relieved to hear these things. I had been living out my feminism by pursuing men, even one time by asking a guy out and then being strangely uninterested in a man who let me do the asking. I did not like this role – it felt unnatural to me – but it seemed to be a betrayal of what I believed to give way to these inner yearnings. You got my attention, Elisabeth. I tucked your name away for future reference.
A couple years later, I came to faith in Christ and early on came across your book Passion and Purity, which was now extremely relevant to me as a single woman who was still struggling with the vestiges of feminism. I don’t think I ever heard you speak in person, but I certainly heard recordings of your speeches and read more of your books: Let Me Be a Woman, Through Gates of Splendor, The Mark of A Man, The Journals of Jim Elliot… You became my spiritual mentor, as you have for so many over the years.
I got married to a wonderful godly man who knows how to lead and took the initiative with me. We started a family and I was drawn back again to your wisdom, your practical guidance, your wholehearted commitment to obeying Christ, and your dry sense of humor as I began listening (as I was able) to your radio show, Gateway to Joy. It would be hard to quantify the many times you spoke to me, encouraged me, corrected me and inspired me through your devotion to Christ and His Word. You helped me work through the difficulties of learning how to submit to my husband and taught me that “submission” wasn’t a dirty word. You told stories about your parents and then about your own experiences as a parent that showed me a better way with our children. You weren’t afraid to tell of your own shortcomings, and oh, what a comfort it was to me to know that prayer was difficult for you, too. I meant to tell you, to write to you about how much you’ve meant to me over the years. But I also knew that you received letters all the time as a public persona and it didn’t seem important to add mine to the mix. I read more of your books: Keep a Quiet Heart, Love Has a Price Tag, A Chance to Die (the Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael), Quest for Love, A Path Through Suffering…
We raised six children and the first wedding in our family was on June 14, 2015. The next day amid the busy-ness of the day after a big event, I learned that you had died and I realized that all along, I had still been planning to write you that letter. I, who never met you, still grieved your loss.
Recently, your granddaughter, in connection with the Elisabeth Elliot Foundation, starting releasing some of your talks on a podcast. It’s been like having my old mentor back! Thank you, Elisabeth, for telling the truth unflinchingly, whether it is popular or not. Thank you for your godly encouragement and example. Thank you for challenging me as a young feminist woman with your Biblical ideas that were so outrageous I listened in spite of myself. Thank you for urging men and women the world over to say a continual “yes” to God and then to rest in Him and trust that He does everything to make us more like Christ. Your wisdom, faith and courage are much needed today.
And now I say to you what you said at the beginning of every one of your radio shows: “The eternal God is your refuge and underneath are the everlasting arms.”
I thank God for you and for your legacy of faithfulness.
I’ll probably…but maybe not…delete this in the morning.