I have read Elisabeth Elliot’s A Lamp for My Feet at least a half dozen times in the past twenty years, but turned to it again at the outset of 2015. Like an old friend, its words are familiar to me, and my copy is underlined and dog-eared and covered with scrawled verse references. It’s a simple little book based on Elisabeth Elliot’s own personal devotions with six months of daily reflections on whatever Scripture she happened to be reading at the time.
Although I own and have read (and re-read) nearly everything Elisabeth has written, this book is in my top three, and in many ways, I have been mentored through her writing. I began reading her books with a dictionary nearby — her vocabulary far surpassed mine. I have never met her, although I did go to hear her speak once, but was, frankly, too intimidated to go to the book table and talk to her. By that time, she was in her early seventies and had acquired the bearing and the force of character that one would associate with Huldah, the Old Testament prophetess in King Josiah’s day, (see II Kings 22:14-20).
During the mid-90’s Elisabeth had a daily radio program, so while I was raising babies, toddlers, and preschoolers, I arranged my mornings around Gateway to Joy. A Lamp for My Feet covers those themes for which Elisabeth was so well known: obedience, the sovereignty of God, sacrifice, and suffering. Her Christianity was of the bracing and invigorating variety that sustained the heroes she looked up to as a child and wrote about as an adult — the likes of Amy Carmichael, Lilias Trotter, and Gladys Aylward, all pioneer missionaries.
Known for being blunt and emphatic, Elisabeth Elliot brooked no excuses and suffered no whiners. Her second husband Addison Leitch said once that some people call a spade a spade, but Elisabeth called it a bloody shovel. In the seventies, when everyone else was talking about feminism, she was talking about femininity. Her life was a spectacular balance of assertiveness and submission, and the fleet of present-day complementarian bloggers are among her spiritual grandchildren. What I came to understand about Elisabeth Elliot is that she spoke with the certainty of one who had stepped into obedience enough times, who had chosen the way of faith often enough to learn the secret that the resulting joy and the deepening intimacy with God is priceless. I find it nearly impossible to mourn her passing, because she is now experiencing the fruit of her surrendered life.
Her exhortation in the introduction to A Lamp for My Feet is classic Elisabeth Elliot: “If you have only five minutes, don’t read my book, read God’s. It will be a lamp for your feet.”
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