“Our vision is so limited we can hardly imagine a love that does not show itself in protection from suffering.  The love of God is of a different nature altogether.  It does not hate tragedy.  It never denies reality.  It stands in the very teeth of suffering.  The love of God did not protect His own Son.  That was the proof of His love – that He gave that Son, that He let Him go to Calvary’s cross, though ‘legions of angels’ might have rescued Him.  He will not necessarily protect us – not from anything it takes to make us like His Son.  A lot of hammering and chiseling and purifying by fire will have to go into the process … Trust is the lesson.  Jesus loves me, this I know – not because He does just what I like, but because the Bible tells me so.  Calvary proves it.  He loved me and gave Himself for me.”  (Elisabeth Elliot, Passion and Purity)

This morning in church I sat two rows behind the woman who penned those words.  She is frail and has aged tremendously, but there she sat with her husband.  I knew that they attended our tiny New England church periodically, although I had never personally seen her before today.  And, as much as I tried to focus on our pastor’s sermon, I couldn’t help but fix my gaze on the back of her head.  He was speaking about sacrificial love, and, at one point, he said that we aren’t all called to die for someone else, but we are all called to live for others.

I just stared at her.  This woman, whose first husband sacrificed his life to bring the Gospel to the Auca Indians, sat in front of me, hunched over and held tightly in the arm of her husband.  She and her young daughter spent two years living with the Aucas, after they speared her first husband and four others to death.

Our pastor didn’t need to say anything else. 

Some people are called to die for someone else.  Most of us are called to live for others.

My eyes were fixed on the back of her head, and I thought about an entire tribe of people, who know Christ because of the sacrifice she and four other wives made for them.  I thought about all of the books she’s written, the people who have heard her speak, the miles she’s traveled, the wisdom she’s transferred.  And I thought about how frail she looked. 

Maybe it’s odd, but it wasn’t sad to me.  She looked smaller and more vulnerable than she has probably ever looked.  Though some in our church could recognize her, most probably didn’t even notice her.

But, as I sat there, I was simultaneously taken aback by the impact of her one life and her fragile humanity. 

I was reminded this morning of my own frailty – physically, emotionally, and spiritually – for I have nothing to offer in my human capacity. 

And I was reminded this morning that a life is made great only by the greatness of one’s God. 

Ms. Elliot, though you ceased speaking publicly years ago, your presence spoke profoundly to me today in the same way it has always done, even in your writing.  Your smallness made much of our God.  Oh, that He should use broken clay jars such as us!  May He be forever praised. 

He must become greater; I must become less.  (John 3:30)