Is it a New Passion and Purity? Reflecting on Elisabeth Elliot
Editor’s Note: Elisabeth Elliot remains one of the most influential women of 20th century Christendom. Her classic book, Passion and Purity, continues to guide a new generation of women navigating issues of the heart within Christ-controlled purity.
Abigail Howell is the granddaughter of Dr. and Mrs. Paige Patterson, President and First Lady of Southwestern Seminary. As a teenager, Abi wrote this reflection of Elliot’s Passion and Purity just one year before Elliot’s death in June 2015. This month, we remember Elisabeth Elliot’s life and celebrate her legacy by sharing Abi’s thoughts on this enduring book.
Passion and Purity is a book that I would recommend to everyone who has not yet found her spouse. It is a book of encouragement, lessons, and guidance that is difficult to find today. Perhaps the biggest theme in the book Passion and Purity is that the greatest gift of love that our world has ever known was on Calvary two thousand years ago. Elisabeth Elliot says, “Calvary proves it. He loved me and gave Himself for me.” The two principles in relationships that I took from this book are: how God provides in times of need, and how timing is everything. Let’s look at what I mean by these two principles.
As the book opens I caught the first glimpse into the most important part of Elisabeth Elliot’s life, Christ. She goes on to describe her room and the special place that she had set aside to pray. Within the beginning chapters it was evident that Christ was truly at the center of all the desires that both Jim Elliot and Elisabeth Elliot had in any relationship that they found themselves in. Although Elliot does not mollify any temptations or desires that were present in their relationship, she makes it so clear that if Christ is at the center, He should define everything in their life.
In Passion and Purity Elliot uses letters, diary entries, and memories to define for us the situation that arose in her relationship with Jim Elliot. It is very obvious to the readers of her desire to marry him and live happily ever after as in a fairy tale. Elliot serves as an astonishing witness to the comfort and patience that Christ provides in times of need and struggle. She talks about the times of separation between her and Jim Elliot as well as the times when they were together. This entire story is a testimony to the blessings that The Lord gives when things are done in His time. Elliot lays out the Biblical roles of men and women in relationships, which are so frequently bypassed in today’s culture. Passion and Purity reveals many concepts that are foreign today such as: sexual purity, roles for men and women, and Biblical marriage.
The first sub-theme discussed in this book is how God is our provider in times of need. Elliot says numerous times that when she was in her loneliest moments she turned to God in prayer or in the reading of His word. I noticed how her journal pages were filled with Scripture, hymns, and poems all pointing to Jesus Christ. In a response to a woman who wrote her about loneliness and separation, Elliot wrote these words, “Be still and know that He is God. When you are lonely, too much stillness is exactly the thing that seems to be laying waste your soul. Use that stillness to quiet your heart before God. Get to know Him. If He is God, He is still in charge.” How true these words are when we find ourselves in times of loneliness. In one instance Elliot describes how she was blessed with loving parents, good siblings and friends, and even a godly man, but she was still lonely. What did she do in those circumstances? She went to The Lord.
The second truth in relationships is the effect of timing. When I say timing I am talking about the concept that the man in the relationship should always be the one to initiate any contact with the woman. Since Elliot spent many chapters on this topic I can only assume that it is important. This was so eye-opening and important to me because this is so contrary to what I see everyday in the world. Our world says that if I like him then I should get his phone number and text him. How contrary that is to the Bible and God’s instructions for a relationship. I don’t think that even Christian women realize how that goes against God’s design. If God has not spoken to the man about me then it must not be His will at that time. Elliot specifically says that God gave men the assignment of initiating a relationship. When women give in to the temptation of being the initiator, they are stripping that responsibility from the man.
As I reflect on Passion and Purity and the challenge that it lays out, I am thankful to my Mamaw for challenging me to read it. I hope and pray that these words will rest in my heart and serve as a reminder that there is a man that God has picked out for me. This is a book that served as both an encouragement and a challenge to me. Lastly, I have a deep admiration for Elisabeth Elliot and the storms that she weathered. I can only pray that I will have the confidence in Jesus to persist as she did.
Photo Credit: http://www.amazon.com/Passion-Purity-Learning-Christs-Control/dp/0800758188