Sunday, July 26, 2015

Betty's Bible

I've been reading in Miss Elisabeth's old Bible. In the front flyleaf is written:

Elisabeth Howard
This Bible was used from 1940-1956 (age 14-30)

With infinite care I crack open the cover of the priceless little brown, worn book and peruse the contents. Oh, I know; this book has the exact same amount of inspired wordage as my newer, bigger, burgundy one. But I've always been completely fascinated by history, and when I hold this Bible I picture a long-limbed 20-something girl with short brown hair, gleaning wisdom from it throughout high-school and then during her time at Wheaton College as she was falling in love with Jim... reading it in the moist, buggy jungle in Ecuador as a single, struggling missionary... perusing it's pages with a broken, aching heart as she reconciled with her young husband's violent death. Her neat, unbelievably tiny script is on many pages, and scribbled in the back are poems and quotes such as this one, ascribed only to "P.W.D":
If God has put me HERE, this it the biggest job in the world so far as I am concerned.

Or another, rather startling and controversial but thought-provoking:

Discouragement is sin.

Is it silly of me to feel somehow more inspired by this Bible than by mine? Pure emotionalism, perhaps? I won't argue that. But somehow, when I read it and I see her beautiful script and the countless underlined passages, I feel as if I've been given the gift of seeing into her heart. The heart of a girl my own age who never knew that some day she'd be known as Elisabeth Elliot, the "icon" (as I've heard her called); the wife of a martyred missionary; the brave soul who forged into a murderous tribe of Indians to preach the gospel; the author and radio host.... no. She was just Betty then: a faithful, thoughtful, obscure girl from New Jersey.
Maybe that's why I'm inspired by this Bible. Because during her years of reading, writing, and studying it, she had no idea of what was to come, yet the evidence is that she treasured God's Word and treasured the Author of it. She didn't just casually read a verse or two here and there to say she had done her Christian duty. She embraced each word for herself and decided to be faithful to it.
Faithfulness, then is what this Bible symbolizes to me.
I am challenged by the faithful owner of this Book.
I wonder if my own Bible shows such evidence of faithfulness and diligence in cultivating my relationship with God. No need to wonder, I suppose... I know it does not. I always thought that you could tell a lot about a person by how worn their Bible is; what's marked in it; what's jotted in it.
The whole crux of the matter is this (which she underlined who-knows-how-many years ago, in the 50th chapter of Isaiah, verse 5, and it struck me tonight):
"The Lord God hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back."
Truth be told, He's "opened" all of our ears. We all know the truth. It's just a question of if whether we'll embrace it, or choose to be rebellious and take our chances that, for some illogical reason, the Just Judge won't really hold us accountable for the truth written in our hearts. it's not just unbelievers I'm thinking of; it's also those who take on the name of "Christian" but only live halfheartedly. What's the use? Give Him your all, or don't pretend to give Him anything.
When I hold Elisabeth's Bible, I'm reminded that long ago, one young woman chose at the age of 13 to give her ALL to God. To tenderly embrace His will. To eagerly pursue Him like a runner pursues a trophy. To try, at least, to love Him with the same passion that He loved her. I'm inspired by how He used that wholehearted girl! Now she is old, and His beauty rests on her like a benediction at the end of a life lived well; a constant reminder to me that most of my life has yet to be lived and the choice of how I live it is mine alone.
I'm determined that even though it most likely will not lead to the same unique experiences it led her to, I will make the same choices. And, eventually, I will win the same Prize.

Give to mine eyes refreshing tears,

Give to my heart chaste, hallowed fires,
Give to my soul, with filial fears,

The love that all Heaven’s host inspires;
That all my powers, with all their might,
In Thy sole glory may unite.
-John Wesley