Last weekend I got away with a few girlfriends to attend a conference by Valerie Elliot Shepard, the daughter of Jim and Elisabeth Elliot. I was blessed beyond measure. The words, health to my bones – simple, but piercing and powerful.
Since my senior year of high school I’ve admired the devotion and commitment of Valerie’s mother. Over the years, I’ve studied the life of this superwoman of God. I’ve had my own hardships, and her example has provided much instruction and comfort.
But as Valerie shared stories from her childhood, I was reminded that the Elisabeth Elliot I know from afar, is a much mightier woman than I. Conviction sinking in as I’ve struggled with forgiveness.
How is it that Elisabeth Elliot forgave the men who murdered her husband while I struggle to forgive over such meager issues?
If she were in my shoes, she wouldn’t hesitate to cast out bitterness. She would forgive and press on in the work God has given her by “doing the next thing.”
On the other hand, I feel like it’s okay to give into my emotions in order to work through them. I think I must cry and I must tell God how mad I am. I think I must grieve, and while thinking upon the rejection I feel, I must pound down the doors of heaven with my wailing.
Then, I think that I will be the better person by not gossiping or being defensive – by quietly receiving the spears. I will hold my head high and walk through the deception and everyone will see by my actions that I am the better one!
But what a lie!
What a revelation of the Legalist in me!
I may be doing the right thing, but not with the right heart.
In this difficulty to forgive, I have found “a chance to die.”
I am not the better one.
I am the wretched sinner.
I am the one who killed the One I love.
“We are all on level ground at the foot of the cross,” said Valerie Elliot Shepard.
Why do I lift myself up when I cannot even lift my eyes at the foot of the cross?
Oh, how I need to gaze upon the Son of God nailed to the tree! How I need to drink in all the sorrow that spilled his blood! To bask in the marvelous and mysterious work of God on Calvary.
And with that I am compelled to forgive. I am on level ground with this one who hurt me. We have entered into relationship with the same “covenant-keeping God”.
It is He who chased us. It is He who changed us. It is He who is able to keep us. And it is He who is able to forgive us! Now, my soul can truly say, “What you meant for evil, God meant for good” (Genesis 50:20).