“All I can offer you is a chance to die.”
Early missionaries did not pack trunks as they set off on long voyages across the world to take the gospel to hidden peoples. Instead, they each packed a coffin, one that would eventually be used to bury them in their new land.
What does this say about commitment? They knew their venture would end in death, yet they still chose to do it—the loss was worth the hopeful kingdom gain.
Flannery O’Connor once said, “What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross.”
In 1903 there was an excitement amongst genteel young Englishwomen who were eager to embrace the adventure of missionary life in India. As Amy Carmichael answered their letters, she submitted these terms: “All I can offer you is a chance to die.”
As the 20th century began, Amy Carmichael’s rescuing of young girls from temple prostitution was groundbreaking early work in human trafficking.
Challenging. Dangerous. Humbling.
Yet Amy served there for fifty-five years without a furlough, establishing the Dohnavur Fellowship, which housed 900 children at the time of her death in 1951. These wounded and broken children called her “Amma,” the Tamil word for “Mother.”
Amy Carmichael understood the paradox in Jesus’ words: “If you try to hang onto your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.” (Luke 9:24) Early in her missionary career, when crossed by a coworker, she had clearly heard the voice of God before she reacted in defense: “See in this a chance to die.” And thus began her journey of dying to self in order to give life to others.
In the middle of her vibrant ministry, Amy suffered a fall and was bedridden the last half of her life. She kept her windows and doors constantly open to the children, and she wrote volumes of poetry. (The epigraphs for sections in both my books Ordinary Graces and Dwelling Places are from Amy Carmichael’s poems.)
Jesus’ words about giving up our lives, remind us that as we release with open hands of surrender, we will be filled with grace gifts we never dared hope for. Give up your perceived right to control; and discover that God’s sovereignty will orchestrate everything better than you possibly imagined.
Do you realize that every gain comes through loss?
This month marks 39 years since the death of a young wife and mother I never knew, but whose life impacted mine greatly. What a loss this was to all who loved and needed her.
But it was my eventual gain. Only God.
Three years after Inka’s death, I received a priceless gift when I went to court in Seattle and adopted her three precious children. Justin, Tim, and Fiona have filled this mama’s life with more joy, purpose, on-my-knees-prayer, and hopes than you can imagine.
“The only way anyone gets to adoption is through a door of loss and unless you fully feel the depth of that loss, the door you’re walking through leads to nowhere honest.” (Ann Voskamp)
What are we willing to lose in order to know Him more fully? Our reputation? Our stuff? Our control? Our own dreams?
under the mercy, Lucinda
©2020 Lucinda Secrest McDowell adapted from Ordinary Graces (Abingdon Press)
“Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity & Strength”
Lucinda Secrest McDowell is a storyteller and seasoned mentor who engages both heart and mind while “Helping You Choose a Life of Serenity & Strength.” She has authored 15 books including “Soul Strong – 7 Keys to a Vibrant Life” and “Life-Giving Choices – 60 Days to What Matters Most.” She writes from “Sunnyside” cottage in New England and shares encouragement at LucindaSecrestMcDowell.com
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